kids sitting at table eating a meal with stainless steel dishes

The First Step in Winning Mealtime Battles

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 7 min

Strategies to Win Mealtime Battles

As a pediatrician and mom of 3, I am no stranger to the common struggles parents face when it comes to mealtime battles with their children. It's a scenario familiar to many families – the fight to get your little ones to eat a nutritious meal without the tantrums and tears. What if I told you that the first step in making mealtime battles easy to win is as simple as inviting your kids to help with meal prep? Engaging children in the kitchen not only sets the stage for a more enjoyable dining experience for the entire family, but also lays the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

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The Joy of Exploration:

One of the most effective ways to involve children in meal preparation is by giving them tasks that ignite their curiosity and sense of exploration. Washing produce, for instance, provides a sensory experience that allows kids to engage with various fruits and vegetables. The vibrant colors, different textures, and unique smells create a multi-sensory environment that sparks their interest in the ingredients being used. This hands-on approach not only makes meal prep an enjoyable activity but also establishes a positive connection between children and the food on their plates.

Early childhood development cooking in the kitchen

Encouraging Independence with Early Knife Skills:

Another valuable skill that children can develop through involvement in meal preparation is the use of knives. Of course, safety is a top priority, and supervision is crucial. However, introducing age-appropriate knives allows kids to gain a sense of independence and accomplishment. Teaching them basic knife skills, such as grating cheese or chopping soft fruits, empowers them to contribute actively to the meal-making process. This newfound responsibility not only boosts their self-esteem but also enhances their connection to the food they helped prepare.

Fostering a Sense of Ownership:

When children actively participate in meal prep, they develop a sense of ownership over the food being served. This feeling of contribution and accomplishment makes them more invested in the outcome – the meal itself. As a result, kids are often more willing to try new foods or eat dishes that may have been met with resistance in the past. The simple act of including them in the kitchen transforms mealtime from a battleground into a shared experience, fostering positive associations with the food on their plates.

Educational Benefits of Involvement in Meal Prep:

Beyond the immediate benefits of creating a more pleasant mealtime atmosphere, involving children in meal prep offers numerous educational advantages. The kitchen becomes a classroom where kids can learn about nutrition, food safety, and the origins of different ingredients. This hands-on education not only promotes a deeper understanding of the importance of a balanced diet but also encourages a lifelong interest in healthy eating habits.

Building Lifelong Healthy Habits:

Establishing healthy eating habits from a young age is crucial for a child's overall well-being. By involving them in meal prep, parents can instill a positive attitude toward food and nutrition. Children who actively participate in the kitchen are more likely to make mindful food choices as they grow older. This early exposure to nutritious ingredients and the cooking process sets the stage for a lifetime of making informed decisions about food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Involvement:

While inviting kids into the kitchen is a fantastic way to promote healthy eating habits, it's essential to prioritize safety and create an enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for a smooth and secure cooking adventure with your little ones:

  1. Choose age-appropriate tasks: Tailor the kitchen activities based on your child's age and developmental stage. Younger children can engage in washing produce, stirring ingredients, or arranging items on plates, while older kids may be ready for more complex tasks like chopping or grating.

  1. Supervise closely: Always keep a close eye on your child, especially when they are using knives or any other kitchen tools. Provide clear instructions and demonstrate proper techniques to ensure their safety.
  2. Create a designated space: Designate a safe area within the kitchen where your child can comfortably work. This not only helps in keeping things organized but also allows your child to focus on the task at hand without distractions.
  3. Make it fun: Turn meal prep into a fun and enjoyable activity by playing music, sharing interesting facts about the ingredients, or even turning it into a family cooking competition. The more enjoyable the experience, the more likely your child will want to participate in the future.

Mealtime Essentials

Involving children in meal prep is a great way to transform mealtime battles into enjoyable family dinners. By inviting your kids to actively participate in the kitchen, you not only create opportunities for exploration and learning but also lay the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. The excitement when discovering new ingredients, the sense of accomplishment from contributing to a meal, and the educational benefits of hands-on experience all contribute to fostering a positive relationship between children and the food they consume. So, the next time you find yourself in a mealtime struggle, consider turning it into a group effort and involve them in the meal prep when you can– a step toward not only winning the battle but also nurturing a love for good food that will last a lifetime.

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Mealtime Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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