Serena Caner, registered dietician

Column: Reducing mealtime stress for parents

Dear Ayla,

The other night when you said dinner looked yucky and threw it on the floor, you hurt my feelings. You see, I work hard every evening to cook you healthy meals that will make your body strong and protect you against chronic disease. I try my best to make them appealing and tasty, but they will not always be your favourite. Next time, please eat it politely and keep your thoughts to yourself.

Thank you.

Mommy

Feeding children can be a demoralizing experience. Especially between the ages of two and four. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: children do learn to eat and mealtimes do get easier. Here are some strategies for survival:

Be Prepared: Getting home at six o’clock to children who needed to eat half an hour ago is not the night you decide to introduce a new recipe with brown rice.

It also doesn’t have to mean fast food. This is a good night to have planned left-overs, assembly meals (you’ve pre-cut all the ingredients, and now just have to throw them together), or eggs and toast.

Yes, I am recommending that you make a meal plan for your week, that reflects the time you have each day to cook.

Make sure your kids are hungry. Hungry kids are always better eaters. Sometimes poor behaviour at supper results from too much snacking after school.

Overtired children?: Today’s world was not created with children’s best interests at heart. Are you trying to fit too many activities into your day?

Children (and parents) eat better when they are relaxed and rested. Consider making your life less scheduled.

Check-in with yourself: Stressed parents usually result in stressed children. If patience is gone by dinner time, find a strategy for self-regulation. This could mean enjoying a glass of wine, allowing yourself some space from your children while you cook dinner, or, worst-case scenario, locking yourself in the bathroom for five minutes of meditation!

Choose one or two meal time rules and stick to them. Consistency is a very important aspect of parenting. What dinnertime behaviours are important to you?

-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.

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