Ah dinner! The meal at the end of the day where everyone can join together and enjoy some healthy food and nice conversation.
Except it doesn’t always go that way, does it?
The final meal of the day has a lot of expectations to live up to in most households:
- It’s the meal where everyone is expected to eat together, connect as a family and be happy (no drama allowed, right?)
- It’s the meal where kids are most often presented with, and expected to try, new and challenging foods.
- And dinner is usually the meal where parents try to make sure their kids have met their vegetable intake quota for the day.
But mama, that’s a lot of pressure on one meal!
And pressure is the exact reason that a lot of picky kids don’t look forward to the dinner hour – or in extreme cases, feel really anxious about it – and much prefer breakfast, lunch and of course snack time.
That’s why it’s important not to pin all your hopes and dreams on one meal 😃
So, to help your kids actually look forward to the final meal of the day, here are 3 ways you can take a little pressure off dinner:
1) Be at peace with not eating together
It’s great if the stars align, and your entire family is able to eat dinner together every single night. But that’s not always possible for most families.
Maybe one parent has a crazy schedule. Maybe your child gets hungry (and cranky) before both parents are home. Or maybe one or more child has an extra-curricular activity that they want to get involved in.
Forcing everyone’s schedule around a family dinner can make the meal feel stressful and may even cause resentment.
Eating together as a family as much as possible is important, but who says it has to be at dinner? Maybe breakfast, lunch or even an after-school snack is a better time to come together for your family. And that’s okay!
At our house, Jon is not home for dinner at least two nights a week due to his work schedule and commute. So instead, we make sure to enjoy one or two family breakfasts on the weekend to make up for it.
2) Serve family favourites
Serving a wide variety of foods – including new foods that your kids haven’t tried – should be the norm in order to encourage adventurous eating.
However, make sure that dinner isn’t always the meal where new foods make their appearance. If your picky eater starts to associate dinner with unfamiliar and challenging foods, they may start to feel anxious and resistant to trying new things before they even get to the table.
Instead, spread out the introduction of new and challenging foods throughout the day. And then at dinner, make sure to rotate in family favourites that you know your kids are comfortable with.
3) Skip the veggies once in a while
Have you ever reached the end of the day and realized that your kids haven’t eaten one single vegetable?
It’s definitely happened to me! And it can be easy to try and cram a ton of different veggies into dinner, and then “encourage” our kids to eat them, in order to ease our guilty conscience. (Gotta get those 4-5 servings in, right?)
But let’s be honest – vegetables can be challenging for even the best eaters. And if kids start to associate dinner with a whole lot of pressure to fill up on greens, dinner isn’t going to be all that appealing.
(Plus, most kids are more tired and irritable at the end of the day – which can impact their appetite and willingness to try things.)
So, to make sure our kids don’t see dinner as always being “veggie-heavy”, it’s important to expose them to vegetables all throughout the day. It should be normal for kids to see veggies at lunch, snacks and even breakfast.
And once in a while, don’t include ANY vegetables at all at dinner. (Yes, a nutritionist just said that!)
I love doing eggs, toast and fresh fruit for dinner on occasion, just to change it up and take the pressure off the meal.
So if you feel like you’re putting some high expectations on the dinner hour, give these suggestions a try and let me know how it goes!
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