- Is refusing to sit at the dinner table during meal times;
- Is not open to trying non-preferred food items;
- Is hiding food around the house;
- Is asking for dessert late at night or refusing to go to sleep without dessert;
- Refuses to eat healthy food packed in their lunchbox; and,
- Is preoccupied with their body or continuously scrolling through sites promoting unrealistic body image goals
Preparing for Healthy Eating Habits
- Model healthy eating at the dinner table;
- Involve your child in the preparation of meals/shopping lists;
- Aim for mealtimes to be around the same time each night;
- Eliminate distractions such as screens;
- Allow around 20-30 minutes for the family meal;
- Encourage your child to remain seated at the table until other family members are finished. Do this by engaging them in conversation or by introducing a gratitude ritual.
- Don't talk about food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Instead, discuss how we eat some foods because they help us grow strong and we eat other foods because they taste good (and these are sometimes foods).
- Encourage your child to set up the table with you;
- Avoid giving dessert as a reward for eating fruits/vegetables. Food shouldn't be used as a reward as it gets in the way of a child's ability to regulate their eating. It also encourages them to eat when they're not hungry as a way to reward themselves.
Professional Support for Eating-Related Challenges
An alternative to constantly reminding your child to ‘just sit and eat’ or ‘finish everything on your plate’ is to take a skill building approach. A psychologist or paediatric dietitian can help the child build on the following skills that may be linked to eating-related challenges:
- Handling novelty
- Persisting on challenging tasks
- Maintaining focus
- Regulating emotions when feeling distressed
- Seeking attention in appropriate ways
Children can learn to practice relaxation and eating new food mindfully in sessions with the psychologist or dietitian. Parents can also be provided with helpful resources around mealtimes and addressing challenging behaviours.