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8 Ways Parents Make Food a Battleground with their Child

Guest post by Charlotte Stirling-Reed

Establishing a healthy relationship with food is important from a young age, but encouraging our children to eat healthily can feel like a constant battle for many parents.

Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a specialist in child nutrition (also the nutritionist on Joe Wicks new book out May 2020) is working to help families create healthier and happier mealtimes and ensure that our children pick up the right ideas about what to eat and how to eat. She outlines below some of the common pitfalls:

1. Not eating together

The biggest bad habit we are all guilty of. Simple, but often challenging - aiming to sit and eat together whenever possible is the first step to healthy, happy mealtimes! Children learn the skills of eating, social skills and even what foods they enjoy by first copying others.

2. Setting a bad example

If your own diet consists of chips and fried chicken, your children will soon pick up on that and want the same themselves. So even if it means changing some of your eating habits, it’s important that your child has an opportunity to see you eating and enjoying a healthy diet.

3. Setting too many mealtime rules

Making mealtimes too pressured and setting mealtimes rules, such as clearing your plate, eating all your vegetables first, or sitting at the table until everyone has finished, can end up making mealtimes less enjoyable for kids.

4. Making separate meals

It is not uncommon for parents to make separate meals for everyone in the family, or even for parents to create multiple meals for a single child at dinnertime, only to have each and every one rejected. Try and have one option that everyone eats. It’s good for you and your children to eat the same meals - seeing you eat similar foods will encourage them to eat a wider variety themselves.#

5. Giving up too early

Research has shown time and time again that babies and children learn to like what is familiar to them. If you offer your child broccoli and they reject it and you never offer it again, they won’t EVER learn to like it!

6. Giving all your attention to the fussy eater

In most instances, any attention given to food refusal simply encourages it, so don’t give all your attention to the fussy eater! Instead, give your attention to the people around the table, whether it be dad, brother or sister, who are eating well and enjoying their food.

7. Forcing or coaxing your child into eating

Avoid trying to force or coax your child into eating, even if you’re worried they’re not consuming enough food. It can establish a negative relationship with food, and can also be dangerous. Young children are actually excellent at knowing when they are hungry and when they are full. If we override these signals, they are likely to have less understanding of their appetite as they grow older.

8. Using distractions such as televisions, toys or phones

According to the research undertaken by Stokke, over two thirds of parents try to use distractions to get their children to eat something unconsciously. However, this simply teaches your children that food is bad or unimportant.

Be careful you are not teaching your children bad habits at mealtimes,” says child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed, who advises thousands or parents at Stokke weaning and child nutrition workshops nationwide, www.stokke.com