Making Mealtimes Work
To make meals more enjoyable and less stressful, I recommend eating at regular times and making conversation an important part of the meal. Having a conversation takes the pressure off children to eat and, instead, it gives them a pleasant experience of the meal rather than it being a potential source of conflict with their parents. Talk about things like 'What is your favourite film/sweet/book/lunch at school/type of chocolate/holiday?', 'Let me guess what you did today that you enjoyed?', 'If you could choose everything we eat what would it be?', 'What do you most like to do in the park?' Tick charts that list specific behaviours you want your children to demonstrate work well. For example, with young children, you could make a tick chart with drawings or photographs of the different foods you might serve, and of their chair and place setting. Whenever they do something right, such as eating a piece of broccoli or sitting up straight, they receive a tick on their chart. This method of positive reinforcement encourages them to enjoy the meal and eat well.
I have always enjoyed cooking and over the years I have gathered recipes and adapted them to suit a growing family. Believe me, my children are not perfect eaters. Their dream would be to have lasagne, pizza or chicken nuggets every night. However, I don't want to cook and eat the same things repeatedly as I would find it dull and I want to broaden my children’s palates. They now routinely tuck into all of the recipes here, and more.
Don’t be surprised if your children say, 'Er, what's that?' 'Why do we have to have this?' 'Why can't we have pizza?' Smile sweetly, ignore the protests, change the subject and serve the food. Eventually, they will become less suspicious and more adventurous. Do give these recipes a try, and please send me your own favourites and I'll publish them on the website.