Avoid these common mistakes parents make during mealsAvoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals

Originally published: Sept 18th/2018; Updated: May 28th/2019


Look…feeding kids is demanding. There, we said it!

3 meals a day. Add snack times. It’s almost a full time job.



Too many food rules … or the wrong food rules?


Not only do you have to plan, prep, and cook, but once seated at the table, you job isn’t done!

Between keeping the peace, and making sure everyone is eating, it can be discouraging. It can also quickly become out of control!

We can unintentionally overcomplicate the process, and try too hard when it comes to feeding kids. Yes, you read that correctly…

We can appreciate that it comes from the best intentions, and can only commend your love and efforts. Sure, as parents we want to give our kids the best all the time…but you also have to preserve your sanity too!

How much pressure do you put on yourself? Even when it’s going smoothly, there’s pressure to maintain progress. Sometimes you get thrown a curveball when your kid’s behaviors or preferences change… just when you had it all figured out.

What if you could simplify your role?

Here’s the secret to making it a whole lot easier. Say goodbye to the food rules that just stress everyone, and don’t get you the results you hoped for!

Let go of these 5 commons food rules parents impose on kids.


Avoid these common mistakes parents make during meals


Food rule #1: Asking your kids to eat at least one bite at every meal


From now on, you can officially let go.

No more asking politely, no more asking impatiently, no more asking repeatedly, no more nagging, negotiating, ordering…

Forcing kids to eat a bit of everything at each meal is not the solution. It won’t get them to like something, and eat it out of their own free will.

Think of reverse psychology. The more you ask, the more likely they will refuse. And then everyone gets annoyed. You. The kids. Your partner.


What you can try instead:

  • Repeated exposure: keep serving it, cook it in a different way, cut/present it in new ways, change the dressing and flavours.
  • Positive environment: foster a family environment every member feels welcome at the table. Skip the comments on what people eat/don’t eat, how much/how little.
  • Lead by example: As a parent, take pleasure in eating YOUR own food. Seeing you eat a variety of food with appetite and pleasure can only encourage your children to do the same. It’s also okay to serve food you don’t like, take only a few bites and explain (for the sake of “educating” them!) that it is not your favourite food.

Ditch the one-bite rule. Instead keep offering the food, and ensure that eating at your family table is pleasant and without judgment


Food rule #2: Cooking only food your kids will like and will eat


Yep, we hear this a lot with our clients…“I won’t cook fish because anyway my kids don’t like that and would never eat it”.

Is that something you find yourself saying?

We hear it often. And it makes sense, because who wants to put effort into cooking a meal no one will touch? BUT… We urge you to ditch this rule (mentality), and serve meals with foods that:

  • Are novel.
  • Have been refused in the past
  • Are not their favourite.
  • Do not please ALL members of your family.

Why would I do this? You may ask, especially if this approach is working.

First, because it is not always about pleasing the kids. Yes, that’s right.

What if YOU are looking forward to eating a specific meal? One that otherwise wouldn’t be on your radar. You deserve to enjoy food you like too.

Second, because who said your kids won’t change their mind one day and take a bite or two, and decide they really like this meal after all?

Repeated exposure is super important in succesfully getting kids to try and like new foods.

That leads to our third point. By “giving in” to their “pickiness”, you limit their exposure to new food, new flavours, new recipes. In the long run, it may become harder and harder to get them to eat a meal without them complaining.


What you can try instead:

  • Pair disliked foods with items they know and enjoy: It is reassuring for kids to have some items they can fall back on.
  • Involve your kids in the process: make them choose meals to cook, items to pick at the grocery store, new food to buy, new cuisines to explore.

It’s not all about pleasing the kids. Cook meals that you wish everyone would enjoy and eat without complaining.


Food rule #3: Having to finish their plate to get dessert


No. That is a hard one to deal with.

Many of us might have grown up being told to finish our plate to be “rewarded” with a nice desert.

We strongly discourage using food as a reward for anything.

Food should be seen as “neutral”, in the sense that there are no bad or good foods. Sure, there is more festive foods than others, but all foods have their place in your family’s diet.


What you can try instead:

  • See dessert as part of the meal: Some experts even suggest to serve dessert on the table with the main meal, so kids can see what is offered and decide how to manage their appetite, what to eat, in which order, and how much of each components.
  • Switch it up: You can have nights where there is a dessert, and nights where there are no desserts. You make the rules!
  • Remember, you decide what is for dessert: If you don’t want them to eat ultra-processed desserts, don’t buy them. Offer alternatives, like in season fresh fruits, yogurt and granola, or muffins for dessert.
  • Agree on family rules: if kids don’t behave as per your established rules, you can decide that meal time is over for them regardless of it they had done their main meal and/or desert.

You decide when and where your family eats dinner, and you decide what is served. You decide on the quality, they decide on the quantity. Regardless of how much of their plate they ate.


Food rule #4: Cooking a second meal for my picky eater?


Again, no. That is just too much work for you!

Cooking 2-3 meals each night? Hell no!

But more seriously, we want to teach your child to pick from what is available on the table at that meal. You want to get them to expand their palates!

We firmly believe that in life, there shouldn’t be kid foods vs adult foods. Remember that your kids learn a lot by imitating you, so leading by example is your best bet.

Everyone is offered the same food at every meal, and each family member decides if and how much they feel like eating at that moment.

Sadly, just like in adult real life, if you don’t like something, you learn how to deal with it. It may not go so smoothly the first few times you stand your ground with the kiddos, but over time they will figure it out.


What you can try instead:

  • Get them to choose one meal/week they want to eat: It will likely get them to be more adventurous having chosen what was for dinner that night!
  • Make the weekly menu visible to the whole family: “This is what we eat. end of the story.” If they aren’t pleased, they can volunteer themselves to participate in the menu planning, or even better, to cook the meals!
  • Serve novel food with some loved items: Be considerate by including some food they will recognize. This way your child has at least one or two things they can eat and love if all else fails.
  • Don’t go overboard with too many items on the table: too many surprises and too many choices can actually be stressful for kids. It’ll take some trial and error. Start with a few items on the table, add some more over time and see where the sweet spot is.

You offer meals that might include favourites AND novel items, and that is part of learning to eat!


Food rule #5: Restrain extended family and caregivers from feeding them all that junk when they visit?


It depends. How often do they visit?

There is a difference between occasional visits (and treats) and regular weekly meals with the grandparents, for example. Part of food learning is for your kids to know how to deal with ALL foods!

They will never live in a bubble where only curated healthy options are gonna be available to them. You need to guide them to learn how to respect their appetite, to discover new flavours, textures and tastes.

To do so, it requires them to have a solid healthy foundation, but also exposure to non-nutritious food options. What we aim for is that most of the time, most of their diet is healthy.

The rest is not as significant. All food has their place, and we don’t want to create obsessiveness over any food in particular. We don’t suggest banishing food either, as this just makes it more tempting and more appealing to indulge and to overeat.

Simply, it doesn’t promote moderation.

We don’t want to take away the pleasure associated with food. We don’t simply eat for nutrition and meeting our needs. Food should bring joy, and family moments with the grand parents are an excellent example of such occasion!


What you can try instead:

  • Have a discussion about your family dinner rules: This applies to any extended family members, friends, or caregivers that aren’t present in the family’s food environment day-in-day-out. Having an open dialogue where you can share your concerns and hear about their intentions can lead to a middle ground where everyone is happy
  • Come up with ideas of “treats” that don’t involve food: Of course, some of our best memories are linked to food and it is perfect this way. Who doesn’t remember the delicious full-sugar-full-fat strawberry pie their grandma always baked them? You don’t want to rob your child (and loved ones) from these occasions of a shared time in the kitchen or at the table. Complement that with other ideas of special activities they can do together that doesn’t involve food. It can be to go visit the public library, to go to a park in a new neighbourhood, to do arts and crafts, etc.
  • Establish the weekly meals: Whether it is the grandparents, an aunt/uncle, a family friend, or a hired caregiver, agreeing on the food to be serve can ensure no surprises!

Eating treats with the grandparents on occasion can be part of creating nice memories, which is also the purpose of food: to be savoured!


Let us know if you’ve changed your approach to food rules, and how it has worked out for you!