You’ve just slaved over an amazing dinner. The kitchen is filled with the smells of delicious food. Everyone sits at the table together and then it starts. The “EWWWW, I don’t like this”, “do I have to eat this?”, “I’m not hungry”. Then we get discouraged and feel like we shouldn’t even bother. But like you, I got TIRED of this exhausting cycle and decided it was time to make some changes!
My husband and I created a “Family Food Pact” and this applies to everyone eating with us, including the ADULTS!
1) No complaining about Food
No one is FORCED to eat anything, we just don’t allowed or tolerate negative food talk. See, the entire point of food is for nourishment, not comfort, entertainment or just because you’re bored. When we complain about the food, it is disrespectful to the cook and says that we don’t appreciate the work it took to prepare the meal. If one of the kids complains, it is an immediate pick from the consequences can! Negativity spreads like wildfire! It must be nipped ASAP!
2) Food is not a reward
I have to work with many of my health coaching clients on this same concept. We treat ourselves to ice cream or cookies. If we try one bite we get dessert. Or even worse, if you don’t eat your veggies, there are negative consequences (early bedtime, a spanking, no TV). As parents, we want our children to develop memories of people and events — NOT food. By making the focus on food, we will constantly struggle with this.
3) Mealtime is Family Time
I’ll be totally honest and say that my husband and I both go crazy about this pact! VERY, VERY rarely are outside activities allowed to interfere with dinner. Yes, this is tough, but necessary. I’m also often asked if we all eat the same thing. The answer is YES and we eat it with a positive attitude.
4) Try it Again & Again
Look, I get it! I”m a very picky eater myself. But I eat waaaaaay more food these days than I ever did before. Even as an adult. SO our pact is that we each are willing to try at least one small bite of the food served. This can be as simple as one green bean, one bite of chicken or one bite of sweet potatoes! If you like it, GREAT! You can always ask for more. Don’t like it? NO PROBLEM! We praise their willingness to try foods.
5) A Hungry Tummy is OK!
I know children who are given a snack as soon as their tummy growls or they are just a little hungry. Or they feel like enjoying a bowl of cheesy crackers. Or we are trying to entertain them in public or on a longer car ride. Look, I get it! Sometimes we just need to do what to do to save our sanity, right!? But it is when we make daily, or sometimes multiple times a day, that it becomes a problem. We we have normal hunger at meal times, we are all more likely to eat whatever is served and eat enough of it to avoid hunger pangs 30 minutes after clean up. We should all want our children to learn how to identify what it feels likes to be full and hungry. The constant indulging in snacks and eating does not give our tummies a chance to inform us that we are hungry. Then we are less likely to try foods.
6) Quality not Quantity
When we are eating whole foods our bodies know exactly how to process and use the fuel we nourish ourselves with. This is easier when we actually cook from scratch. YES, this involves a little planning and preparation, but when we focus on real ingredients and real food, it can be done with less stress. One of the things I teach in The Stress-Free Jumpstart to Meal Planing Success is getting the kids involved! When everyone is involved and invested, they start to encourage OTHERS to eat the quality food that has been prepared.
Does your family have any rules around meals, food or nutrition? What works for you?