Is dinnertime a struggle for your family? Maybe the kids are turning up their noses at what you have prepared?

Enjoying dinnertime with your kids

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Is dinnertime a struggle for your family? Maybe the kids are turning up their noses at what you have prepared? They are begging for something different? Or you are actually preparing something different, maybe feeling like a short order cook? It can be so frustrating when your meals are not eaten, after you have spent the time preparing them. Here are some reminders to make those meal times more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone.

These are the responsibilities of parents for mealtimes:

  • What – determine the menu and the foods being served
  • When – the time to eat
  • Where – location of the meal

The child’s responsibilities for mealtimes:

  • What will be selected from the foods provided
  • How much will be eaten

When there is a division of mealtime responsibility, there are many benefits:

  • Less stress for all
  • Children learn to eat to their hunger
  • Children stop when they are full – they learn their satiety signals

It is important for food choices and meals to not become a battle ground with parents and kids digging in their heels. Establish regular mealtimes with a pleasant environment. Have good discussions with your children over meals. Find out about their day: during breakfast you can find out what is coming up in their day, and then at dinner what happened during the day. No TV or phones. And then children can enjoy selecting foods from the meal you have prepared without pressure. Make sure that there are at least two foods that your kids will like. And yes, their food preferences will change as they age. What they like today may be strongly disliked tomorrow. That is okay. It is part of growing up with tastes changing and evolving. No amount of pushing, rewarding or punishing will work in anyone’s favor. It will just create stress for all. And keep the menu varied. Continue to offer different foods. One day they might like what they have refused!

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.