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How to Help Your Kids be "Good Eaters" at Thanksgiving Dinner

23 November 2011

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, spending time with family, and eating!  Here are some tips to help make your meal with kids more enjoyable:

1. Start off your day with a healthy breakfast which is low in sugar, and high in fiber and protein.  Since we changed our morning habits in an attempt to break out of the cereal rut , I have noticed that my kids are much more balanced throughout the rest of the day.  They aren't "starving," and snacking throughout the day. Need some ideas breakfast alternatives? Click here

2.  Instead of worrying about your kids "ruining their appetite," plan for, and allow healthy snacks throughout the day. If you're traveling for Thanksgiving dinner, bring along some cut up fruit, a veggie tray, or some cheese and whole grain crackers. It defies logic, but kids who are very hungry, often eat less. They become overly emotional, and are also more likely to crave sugar and carbohydrates for a "quick fix."

3.  Discuss the meal ahead of time. What foods should they expect to find at the meal? What foods are they looking forward to eating? Tell them what your favorites are and what they were as a kid. Talk about something new they may want to try, or something they may have tried before, but are willing to give a second chance. 

4.  Let your child choose what goes on his plate and serve small portions. Small portions feel less overwhelming. If your child agrees to try something new, put enough for one bite on their plate. If they like it, they can always get more, but if they don't, they still have a sense of accomplishment.  

5.  Don't push too hard for your child to eat a lot of food or to eat foods that they typically wouldn't. Holidays are not the time for food battles. You and your child both want to have an enjoyable meal and sometimes that means letting things slide a little. My kids are great eaters, but sometimes they don't eat much at family gatherings. They are excited and they are in "unfamiliar" territory, two things which can sometimes make for "funny tummies." Plus, they are generally much more excited about playing with their cousins than they are about sitting down to eat.

6. Use positive peer pressure. If another child at the gathering is a good eater, have your child sit next to her. If it's an older child, you may want to enlist his help in talking up the food and encouraging your child to try the it.

7. Don't hold desert over their head as a bribe.  When we do this, we often set ourselves up for disaster. If you say, "You need to eat everything on your plate (or have a bite of green beans, or eat one more bite of turkey) before you can have pie," you then have two undesirable choices when they don't comply; they either sit there without desert while everyone else eats it, which will likely result in drama, or you give in and allow them to eat it anyways in order to avoid the drama, which teaches your child that you don't really mean what you say.

This is where a good breakfast and healthy snacks come in, as well.  If your child has eaten a good breakfast, healthy snacks, and a little bit of dinner, a small piece of pie shouldn't cause too much of a sugar spike.  If you feel that your child hasn't eaten enough to warrant desert, try saying something like, "If you haven't eaten enough good food, eating desert will just make you feel yucky.  What else would you like to eat before you eat your pie?" If the answer is, "Nothing," just say, "Ok, I understand if you're not hungry right now. When you're hungry, you an choose something else to eat and then have your pie."

Overall, Remember, it's just one day. What they eat or don't eat on this day is not that important in the big scheme of life. Do what you can to help make the day enjoyable for all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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