Good nutrition for picky eaters during the holidays
Your child's nutrition is important throughout the year, but perhaps even more so during the holiday season. If your child is a picky eater, good nutrition may be tougher than it sounds. In addition, many kids become overstimulated by the sights and sounds of the holidays, and some may not feel as hungry as usual. The following tips can help your picky eater eat nutritious, healthy meals during the busiest time of the year.
1. Let your child help you cook the meal: Involving your child in meal planning, preparation and cooking can go a long way in creating healthy habits, especially during the busy holiday season. Encourage your child to help you prepare the main meal and a dessert, to make the event more exciting. Some kids aren't sure if they want to try new meals or foods that are unfamiliar to them. By planning and preparing a meal or dessert, your child feels more involved and connected to the outcome. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that your child wants to sample the foods he helped prepare.
2. Bring a dish you know your child will eat: It happens every year—the family gathering at Thanksgiving and other winter holidays. Instead of stressing over which types of food will be served, bring a dish or meal that you know your child will enjoy. It can be awkward to ask family or friends what is being served, so a little advance planning can help when it comes to packing a kid-friendly meal that will be nutritious and appealing for your growing child.
3. Be realistic about your child's eating habits: The holiday season is probably not the best time to encourage your child to try new foods or fancy dishes that your family is preparing for holiday gatherings. Your energy is better spent focusing on enjoying holiday traditions, even if your little one refuses to try cranberry sauce or green bean casserole. As long as your child eats balanced meals and is eating at regular meal times, you can put your worries to rest. Try to keep your child's meal times on schedule, as this will help them establish consistent expectations about meal times during the holidays.
4. Feed your child before the holiday meal: Perhaps you're dining out at a restaurant for the holidays, or maybe you can't bring a portable meal for your child. That's why many families choose to prepare a meal and feed their kids before the big event. This strategy accomplishes a few goals. First, your child will be fed and satisfied, which might mean a happier, less cranky child. Secondly, you won't have to fret if the food being served is something your child won't even consider trying. And finally, your child might benefit from the routine of eating at a certain time and feel comforted by eating at a familiar place. Keeping your sanity and reducing stress will be an added bonus.
5. Celebrate the true meaning of the holidays: At the end of the day, the holiday season isn't about food or treats. If your child refuses to try some of your mother's famous turkey dressing, it's not the end of the world. Relax with your family and enjoy the true meaning of the holiday, without all the extra pressure surrounding meals, cooking and desserts. If you put the focus on spending time together, your child may surprise you and be more open to trying some new foods if he sees other kids and family members trying them.
The holiday season is a special time to share happiness and good health with your family and friends. Focus on the positive, and if you see your child trying new foods, be sure to praise often. Many times, children need to be exposed to new foods more than just a few times before they consider trying something new.
With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your family's holiday traditions, while also modeling healthy behavior during meal time.