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“No Dessert Unless You Eat Your Dinner”

by on May 16, 2013

Working Parents: “No Dessert Unless You Eat Your Dinner”

Beverly Pressey, MS, RD

Nutrition Therapist, Dietician for

MOSAIC Children’s Therapy Clinics

“No dessert unless you eat your dinner.”  Does that remind you of yourself at family meals?  Is that how you want your kids to remember you; as a parent that is gone all day, comes home, yells at the kids and denies them dessert?  Probably not.  You are likely a very loving, concerned, hard working parent.  So don’t let meal time make you in to the bad guy or girl.

When the family sits down to eat, don’t comment on what your kids are eating or not.  Whoever provided the meal has already done the adult job, offering appropriate food at appropriate intervals.  At this point you have three jobs.  First is to model table manners, and correct inappropriate table manners (given the child’s age and abilities).  Second is to model food acceptance by eating and enjoying the food.  Third is to have conversation with your children.  Don’t talk about anything that would make your child uncomfortable at the table, find other times to discuss problems.  Family meals are not the time to reprimand for past poor judgment, errors, or moments of downright meanness, or to warn against similar errors in the future.  Think of the dinner table as a place where everyone comes with a clean slate.

If your child refuses to eat a certain food, or eats nothing at all, be nonjudgmental.  Feel free to remind them that if they are hungry now is the time to eat and that there will be no food offered after dinner.  Don’t let them have anything that is not on the table.  Don’t let them make a snack after dinner.  You don’t have to punish them for not eating; hunger will be a natural consequence if they choose not to eat.

Some children have eaten enough calories (energy) and met their nutritional needs in the 4-5 eating opportunities they had previous to dinner time.  Therefore by dinner time they can afford to be picky.  If a child hasn’t fulfilled their energy and nutritional needs and chooses not to eat, their body will provide appropriate feedback.  You don’t have to.  You can continue to enjoy your meal and your family.

What about dessert?  Let your child eat it whether they have eaten dinner or not.  Don’t get into a power struggle.  An appropriate portion of dessert is not a big deal.  Arguing, bribing, or negotiating with your child every night is the problem, not the dessert.  If your child has already consumed the necessary nutrients and calories they need for the day, they are eating the dessert solely because it taste good, which is why everyone eats dessert.  If your child did not get enough calories and nutrients during the day, eating the dessert will not satisfy their body.  They will be hungry in short order; their body is providing the feedback, not you.  If they ask for snack, remind them that they chose not to eat dinner and that now they need to wait for snack, or breakfast.  Some children do very well when the dessert is offered during the dinner.  The child will eat their portion of dessert first so the tension is gone.  Now they can enjoy the meal. They will eat if they are still hungry.  You are smiling, relaxed, calm, and happy to be home with your family.

Beverly Pressey is a Registered Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and specializes in working with care givers of babies and children at MosaicChildren’s Therapy Clinics.  Beverly has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with child care centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher, speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at www.creatinghealthyeaters.com.

http://www.mosaicrehab.com

MOSAIC Children’s Therapy 13010 NE 20th St. Suite 300, Bellevue, WA 98005

MOSAIC Center for Therapy Services 4909 – 25th Ave. NE Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98105

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