Stress Free Meal Times
Step 1: Shopping with your child
Let your child choose an item to buy from the supermarket – so long as it’s something they’ve never tried before.
When they’re old enough, give them a little money to buy a new food.
Let them find something new for you to try too, and give yourselves a reward for tasting it.
Step 2: Cooking with your child
Make meal preparation a time for fun and working together.
Give your child a board and plastic grater and ask them to chop some veggies with a butter knife.
Children love washing up, tearing up salad or getting messy with some floury dough.
If the meal’s a success, celebrate by inviting one of their friends or family members around and cook it again.
Step 3: Stay calm + 30 min rule
Once the food is served, explain to the child what is on the menu.
Communicate your exact expectations.
Stick to your expectation – do not compromise or negotiate.
Example: “I want you to eat a quarter of the sandwich and 3 slices of cucumber. You see the cranberries and apple; you can have as many of those as you want.”
• This gives the child the ability to make a choice and feel empowered.
• You say this a maximum of 2/3 times – NO MORE than that.
• If the child kicks up a fuss and refuses to eat. SIMPLY say: “This plate will be here for 30min. Thereafter I will clear the table and the next time we will eat is at 16:00 for our usual snack.”
• Stay calm. It is important to not create stress or anxiety around food and meal times.
NOTE: Make sure you say to the child that is totally fine if he wants more that a quarter sandwich.
NOTE: Stay calm and do not repeat yourself more than twice.
NOTE: Stick to the amount you stipulated in the beginning.
Step 4: Stay strong
Now, let’s say your child chose to only eat the apples and the cranberries and refused the quarter sandwich and cucumber. They will probably get hungry before 16:00.
“Mommy, I am hungry.” x 3 at 14:00.
Your response will be simple, clear and calm: “You chose not to eat the lunch I prepared for you at lunch time. Now, you have to wait until 16:00. That is the next time we will eat”.
“Mommy, I am hungry.” x 3 at 15:00.
Simply repeat what you said at 14:00.
If your child starts to scream or shout or have a meltdown because they are “starving” you will have to stay STRONG – if you cave in and give them a snack before 16:00 the whole process is lost and a waste of time.
NOTE: The hardest part of this is to not respond to a child that says they are hungry. Remember what you are trying to achieve here. Your child will not starve.
NOTE: Stick to your word and stay strong until the next meal or snack time.
NOTE: If the refusal happens at dinner, you MUST follow through and make sure the only time they eat again is at breakfast – this will be difficult for you as the parent BUT STAY STRONG – it is worth it!
Step 5: Same amount of food
Make sure that at the next meal or snack time you do NOT overcompensate, give the same amount of food or snack you would normally give.
If you overcompensate here, you will have a problem in the next meal time because they over ate now.
Step 6: Gentle explanation
Make sure your child understands in the next meal time why we eat healthy food and why you are asking them to eat it.
Stick to this new plan and make sure you are consistent if every meal time.
This means the RULES are always the same.
WELL DONE – you did it!