10 Tips to Avoid a Meal Time Power Struggle

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Edited by: Stephanie Boron, M.S., CCC-SLP

Information by: Kathy Lord, OTR/L, MS Holistic Nutrition

Meal time can be fraught with frustration for both parents and kids, often leading to a power struggle. We got some helpful tips from OT and holistic nutritionist Kathy Lord to help families avoid the struggle and enjoy the meal. Read on for her top 10 tips!

  1. Whenever possible, involve the child in selection and preparation of the food you plan to use in a meal.
  2. Remember that bribes and rewards for eating (or punishments for not eating) can lead to problems later on. Be patient and try to remember how awful you once thought lima beans and cauliflower tasted.
  3. Always provide a preferred food with a new food that has a similar feature (size, shape, color, texture, or taste.) Talk about the features of the food during presentation.
  4. Do not insist that a child join “the clean plate club.” The long-term goal of helping a child regulate his food intake can be undermined when a child is told to eat even when he is full.
  5. Be satisfied with a taste test. If s/he doesn’t like it now, s/he may later; it takes 15 – 20 tries before deciding on like or dislike of a particular food.
  6. A tired or upset child is not likely to eat much of anything. This is not the time to experiment with new foods.
  7. Include some fun as you encourage healthful eating. For example, pretend that broccoli stalks are trees; that peas are magic pebbles, or that orange slices are smiles.
  8. Dip it. If your kids won’t eat vegetables, experiment with dips.
  9. Avoid substitutions. Serving your child something else will make her hold out longer next time to get what she wants.
  10. Try to eat a variety of nutritious foods yourself. Show your child what it looks like to eat new/healthy foods.

Did you know that our speech therapists and occupational therapists work with kiddos who have a hard time with food? This can be for a variety of reasons. To learn more, you can contact Kathy Lord at 847-663-1020 Ext. 141 or Stephanie Boron at SBoronSLP@gmail.com.

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