Kids are notorious for not liking healthy foods. It may not be clear why that is the case, but it's a fact that plenty of parents aim to accommodate their little picky eaters by making them separate meals.
I'm a mom of two, and one of them is a picky eater indeed. He doesn't like anything that's green and "looks too healthy". I admit that I am tempted to simply make him a sandwich while the rest of the family enjoys dinner quite often. At times, I have done just that. Some of my friends make three separate meals for three separate kids!
I just came across this study of over 2,000 five year old children in Scotland. University of Edinburgh researcher Valeria Skafida looked at the meal habits of those kids and their families, and reached some interesting and important conclusions. Skafida wants the government to provide more information to parents about dietary habits, and also wanted to keep the advice "simple". With a little common sense, families don't have to wait for some "keep it simple, stupid" advice, and can use the conclusions drawn in the new paper to take a critical look at their own habits and make some changes. If you are still trying to get pregnant, it's not too early to start thinking about dinner habits with kids traditions form early on, and even the habits you and your significant other have today is likely to affect the future.
There are two big no-nos, the report suggests. The first one is giving kids different meals than their parents, and the second is a bad atmosphere at the dinner table. Along with that, the paper backs up previous research that suggested that it's very important where you eat your meal. Kids who eat their dinner together with their family members at the dinner table are healthier than those who eat in the living room or bedroom. Let's take a look at what Skafida said about her conclusions.
She told the BBC:
"Offering separate 'children's food' for a main meal may often result in children missing out nutritionally. It is likely that in cases where children eat different foods, they are eating a less nutritious option. This is already known to be the case with kid's menus in restaurants, so children are best off eating the same foods as their parents."
Indeed, isn't that the whole point of so-called kid-friendly meals? You've made the rest of the family a healthy dinner, and are giving the kid in question something else because he doesn't like the healthy components of the meal, usually vegetables. The kid ends up with stuff like pasta with tomato sauce, PB&J sandwiches, or fries. What can you do to stop this habit? At my house, we sit down together once a week to plan the meals for the next seven days.
The kids get quite a lot of input on what they are going to eat, but they don't get to choose unhealthy foods. We don't make completely separate meals, but we like Asian food and I may make a less spicy version of the same meal so the kids can enjoy their meal. There are times at which one child really doesn't like what we are having for dinner. They have to try everything, but if they dislike it so much they want to vomit then yes, they do get a sandwich. This rarely happens because they help plan the meals. The study also found that a bad atmosphere at the dinner table creates less healthy eating habits.
Aiming to make meal time a family bonding event at which everyone listens to each other is certainly wonderful. What if that bad atmosphere is created by the child's refusal to eat healthy meals, though? It's not quite as simple as it seems, especially when you take into account that this paper also shows that firstborns have healthier diets than subsequent kids. All in all, this study offers a lot to think about! What are your opinions about family meals, and making separate meals for kids? How do you create the best dinner time possible? Feel free to leave a comment!