Avoid Mealtime Meltdowns

Avoid Mealtime Meltdowns


Has your family ever experienced meltdowns around certain foods? My sons don’t tend to like mixing sweet with traditionally savory recipes. I often buy the warehouse store-size bag of corn tortillas and cook and eat as many as we can in a week, so I try to get creative in using them. One creation used pear, mozzarella cheese and honey, but it was so off-putting to my son that it set off a meltdown of record proportion.

I held my ground and refused to prepare an alternative entree- eating or not eating was up to him. After watching the rest of the family enjoy this gourmet quesadilla, he took a tentative bite. A sheepish smile covered his face, he tried it and he liked it after all.

Not all mealtime meltdowns end this well. Some children make food a power struggle leading to parental anguish and untouched plates. Planning ahead and having a feeding strategy is key to avoiding the meltdown and dinnertime struggles.

Dos and Don’ts of Feeding Children

By following these golden rules you should find mealtimes more tolerable and avoid those meltdowns that are difficult to manage: 

DO eat meals with your children. Start this as soon as they are old enough to eat at the table. It’s now that they will want to try what the adults are eating. You can prepare many of the same foods with minor adjustments for spices and chewing ability.

DON’T think that they are too young, or too old, to eat with.

DO role model healthy eating habits. Show that you eat a variety of foods and in moderation. Mealtime is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of eating from all five food groups for good health. Balanced meals have something from each of the five food groups: Dairy; Vegetables; Fruits; Grains; Protein.

DON’T have different rules or cook different meals for children and adults unless there’s a diagnosed medical condition. 

DO offer a wide range of foods. If a child dislikes certain items separate out food to make assemble-it-yourself pasta or give them a bowl to remove the undesired item. A healthy child will not starve themselves. With younger children, make meals fun by offering toppings and kid-friendly food names. Include older children in the planning and preparing of meals.

DON’T require your child to eat everything on their plate. It’s your job to offer food and their job to decide what to eat. If they are not hungry, put the food away and they can always eat it later or begin anew at the next meal. If you’re making a new dish that might not be liked, go ahead and offer leftovers or plenty of other choices as side dishes.

DO offer dessert. It can be as simple as a fruit salad or pudding. Set limits on how much “extra” foods can be eaten but allow for them particularly on holidays.

DON’T use the terms forbidden or “bad” when describing foods. This leads to more cravings and potentially sneaking foods.

Plan ahead, stick with your rules and you will see improvement in mealtime meltdowns.