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Alternative namesSome common childhood eating behaviors which can cause alarm in many parents include food jags, fear of new foods, and refusal to eat what's served. A food jag is when a child will only eat one food item meal after meal.
FunctionAt times children's eating habits are a way for them to explore their independence. This only marks normal psychosocial development in children.
If the food is nutritious and easy to prepare, continue to offer it along with a variety of other foods at each meal. Your child will usually start eating additional foods before long. Many times serving the meal before your child becomes ravenously hungry will help diffuse the situation.
Once a child has her mind set about what she wants for dinner it's almost impossible to get her to accept an alternative food. If your child happens to go without eating much at one meal, don't worry, she will make up for it at another meal or snack. Healthy kids regulate what they need to eat to grow properly very well without parental supervision as long as nutritious foods are provided at meals and snack times.
While specific situations are discussed below, some general recommendations are as follows:
1- Set an example by eating a variety of healthy foods.
2- Prepare meals that are pleasing to the eye, with different colors and textures.
3- Start introducing new tastes, especially green vegetables, from very early on, even at 6 months in the form of baby food.
4- Never coerce a child to eat. Mealtime should not be a time of fighting. The body was programmed to eat, children will also do so when hungry.
5- Avoid high-sugar snacks in between meals to allow children to become sufficiently hungry.
The taste rule, "You have to at least taste each food on your plate" may work on some children, (especially if they are able to remove the offending food if they don't like it) but with a defiant child you may start an unnecessary war. Children mimic adult behavior and if an older sibling or parent will not eat new foods or tend to complain about anything out of the ordinary, you cannot expect your child to experiment.
Some parents are so worried their child will not eat they go to great lengths to ensure their child's food intake is adequate. Healthy children will eat enough if offered a variety of nutritious foods. If your child eats "like a bird" at one meal, he will probably make up for it at another meal or snack.
Allowing your child to be in control of her own food intake may seem hard at first, especially if you grew up with rules like; "You can't go out to play until you clean your plate" or rewards such as; "I'll give you ice cream if you eat your broccoli", but it will help promote healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
Update Date: 10/17/2003David Webner, M.D., Sports Medicine Fellow, Crozer-Keystone Family Practice Program, Springfield, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT