Our children’s good health and wellbeing is paramount as parents. Good nutrition is a real blessing in our community. We have fresh meat, fruit and vegetables available year round so that following Canada’s Food Guide is made easier for our children to meet their dietary needs.

But, that is ‘easier said than done’ sometimes.  Perhaps, you have a child that turns up their nose to the mere word “Dinner is ready,” without even knowing what is on their plate!

I personally used to cringe to my sons lament, “I’m not hungry”. (Usually, after I have pre-planned a meal and prepped in the morning to be ready at supper time)

Chances are they have been forced to sit down to a plate full of “hot” food. Which of course, you have been preparing for the family, after a long day of work and the last thing you wanted to do was stand in the kitchen preparing a hot, proper dinner.

Your children do not need a full size dinner plate. A small dessert plate is large enough for children under 50lbs.(just a guideline, of course) We as parents tend to give them to large of portions, especially when we are hungry as well.

It would be best to have 6 small meals a day for all of us, but particularly true for small children. Their tummies are smaller and fill up quicker. They are also more active and require more frequent snack. Just ensure they are healthy options. If your child tends to be heavier, give him/her a glass of water before snacks, mealtime, and whenever thirsty. Water can be flavoured with fresh fruit, strawberries or purchase creative water bottles. Fruit juices have a lot of sugar, even if you are purchasing 100% pure fruit juices. Natural sugar or not, it is sugar.

First of all, a child rarely turns down a snack. So be creative and try change the wording; Rather than Dinner is ready, try ” Snack Time” and have a variety of RAW fruits, veggies, cheese, crackers on a SMALL plate. Be creative: Make the food in the shape of a face. Grapes for eyes, cheese for ears. Celery carrots sticks for hair. You get the idea.

Make an alligator in the marsh. Peel a carrot. Leave full length, making one end narrow. Cut one end in the middle and carve a hole on each side of the carrot for the eyes. Wash broccoli and cut into ‘bushes’. Have your child try picking up the bush with the Alligator’s mouth. Have a yogurt sauce/salad dressing for dipping into the “marsh” .

You have now saved time cooking and the raw veggies and fruit contain more nutrition fresh rather than cooked.

Dinner is not necessarily “family time”. The media, especially TV certainly reinforces that unrealistic vision. Dinner time is often a stressful, usually because of time. We need to get children fed, bathed, driven to sports,  assistance with homework and  projects just to name a few responsibilities.

Forget that old adage. Family time can be as simple as curling up together with a ‘snack’ reading a book. Going for a walk, looking at bugs is some of the best times spent with my sons. When my adult son was asked: what is your best memory at mealtime? He said in a homemade fort (under a picnic table).