How To Overcome Common Eating Struggles In Young Children

By in Food & Nutrition on 15 January 2009

Parents may find mealtimes challenging, especially when feeding very young kids. As much as parents would like to teach young kids healthy habits, feeding challenges will always be part of mealtimes. Here are some common feeding challenges, and ways on how you can handle them:

1. Food Jags – A child will only eat the same food during meals.

If the food that your child prefers is healthy, continue offering it together with other foods. Try to avoid giving your child sugary snacks in between meals, so that he will be hungry during mealtimes. Serve the food jag at a later time, and offer a variety of healthy foods first. Make an effort to make the food pleasing to your child’s eyes. After a while, your child may be enticed to try the new foods being offered.

2. Food Strikes – A child declines to eat the food being served.

Just like food jags, try not to offer snacks when it’s almost time to eat. Try to offer a variety of healthy food choices during meals. You may include some food items that your child may like, but avoid preparing his food requests during meals. Your child may only be testing your limits, so you need to be firm in setting yours. Be supportive, and do not be afraid if your child refuses to eat. Most likely, your child will be eager to eat at the next meal.

3. The TV Habit – A child may only want to eat while watching television.

Be firm in imposing the rule that the TV should be turned off during meals. Watching television during meals can distract a child, and it can also hinder family interaction. Encourage your children to take mealtimes as an opportunity, to spend quality time with everyone.

4. The Complainer – A child will whine or complain about the foods being offered.

If your child complains about the food and refuses to eat, send your child to his bedroom until the meal is finished. Be firm in not allowing your child to return at a later time to eat dessert, or snack on other food items. Offer food only during the next planned meal or snack time.

5. Picky Eaters – A child may only eat a couple of food items, and some of these may
belong in the same food group.

Do not pressure your child to eat other varieties of food. If you pay attention to your child’s finicky eating habits, it may only reinforce the behavior. Keep on offering a variety of foods belonging from the different food groups. Try to encourage your child to taste the other foods, until he can be acquainted with them. In time, your child will develop a liking to the other food items.

6. Fear of New Foods – A child may refuse to taste new foods.

Be persistent in offering new foods. It may take some time and many attempts, before a child can muster enough courage to try a new food. It may even take more attempts before a child may like it. Even if your child tries only a small amount, it is already an achievement. Never force your child to eat the food, but instead show your child that the rest of the family enjoys eating it.

Children will really go through a phase when mealtimes can be difficult. However, parents need to patiently encourage and reinforce healthy eating habits in children. There will surely be days when overcoming the challenges can be hard, but it can be a good ground work for good eating habits later in life.

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