I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two moms the other day. They were bemoaning dinnertime and my ears perked up. One of the moms talked expressly about the hour she has after work and daycare pick-up before her husband returns home. The dreaded dinner prep time. She painted a picture of chaos, whining and tiny pleas for dinner. Though she wants her children to eat what she is preparing, she admitted that normally she has to give in and quickly microwaves a plate of chicken nuggets or whip up some mac & cheese. She then prepares a healthier “adult” meal. I know that she is not alone.
As the mother of two young children, I understand that, at times, peace is more important than peas! But we must resist reverting to kid food and teaching our children that there is special food just for them.
Market aisles are full of foods, often sweet and calorie-dense, that are specifically developed for and marketed to our children. The food industry spends millions creating food that your children crave and, in turn, the hope is that they will whine until you buy it. In the United States, sales data for kid food – snacks, drinks, cereals, and meals – is estimated at $23.2 billion annually and growing. A Google News search will show you our children are in trouble. The predictions of early onset diabetes and heart disease for this generation are dire.
Healthy choices have to be the only options for kids at every point of their day. If your kids are whaling while you prepare dinner try the following to put an end to “kid food” and return to family mealtime:
- Put plain veggies, salad, or the fruit you’re having for dessert out on the table.
- Let them help. There are many kitchen activities to assign your little ones that will take their attention off of rumbling tummies – rinsing vegetables and fruits, measuring ingredients, mashing, etc.
- Reserve special toys that only come out “to play” during this time of day.
- Fill a large tupperware container with uncooked ingredients your child may see you use like dried beans, uncooked pasta and rice to keep kids busy. Then, pair with small bowls, measuring cups, a wooden spoon or even empty food boxes to make your youngster feel like she’s cooking along with you.