It can be a challenge to feed your family no matter the age of the kids! Toddlers are preferential and finicky by nature. Teenagers are seeking out fast food and saying “Not THAT again!” Usually, when given a choice, everyone wants something different. It is human nature to be very “independent” and want a choice in what is eaten. This makes family meal planning a challenge!
Before we launch into tips on how to manage this, let’s cover some basics!
For children and teens, appetites fluctuate from day to day. Typical, healthy children with adequate growth have internal feeding cues that will not let them starve. So one day they will eat EVERYTHING in sight and the next they just pick at it. So don’t feel compelled to short-order cook separate meals if they don’t eat very much at any given time. Depending on the child’s age, offering 3 meals, 2-3 scheduled snacks (not too close to a meal) will make sure there are plenty of opportunities to eat throughout the day.
All foods fit. It’s not GOOD VS BAD foods. It’s just food. Nutrition is more about the overall pattern of eating than individual meals and snacks. Offer a variety of foods at meals, making sure there are at least a few things each family member will eat.
How do you plan a meal that has something for everyone?! Engage the whole family in meal planning, shopping, preparing and make it fun!
Here are ideas to try:
- When meal planning, get family members’ input for the menu. Sit down together to plan or have everyone write their favorite meals on paper, put them in a jar, and select randomly from the jar when meal planning.
- Have a mini-buffet! Include a variety of cooked ingredients, and allow family members to assemble their own plate based on what they like. For example, have a burrito bowl night by offering black beans, shredded chicken or ground beef, brown or white rice, tomato, onion, cilantro, greens, and cheese. Apply the same concept for pasta dishes, salads, baked potatoes, etc. Repurpose leftovers for lunches, soups, stews, and salads.
- Build your own. Kids and teens of all ages love this! Provide a variety of toppings to choose and top their own personal pizza with. Same concept works for grilling skewers. Offer a variety of veggies and one or two protein options to skewer.
- Think outside the box. Often we get stuck in a rut and plan meals around what “goes together” or what time of day it is. There is no food police and certainly are no food rules. Think, “breakfast for dinner” by offering whole grain waffles, omelettes or BLT’s! AND It’s ok to NOT have green beans and applesauce if you’re grilling pork chops to be served. Let family members each pick a side dish or veggie!
These concepts help foster food acceptance and independence while giving you a break from trying to come up with ideas on your own. With consistency and time, children and teens can become more accepting of a variety of foods. This means that mealtime challenges and struggles can eventually become a thing of the past!
Like these ideas to better feed your family?
Book an appointment with Tammy to learn more! Tammy works with families that have picky eaters, texture-related issues, autism, and more. The best thing is that insurance may cover 100%!