Is food a “fight” in your home? Do you dread mealtimes because you’re tired of offering bribes for your child to eat their vegetables? Do you find yourself trying to “trick” your children to eat certain foods? For many families, the topic of food and eating doesn’t bring warm and comforting thoughts, but rather, anxiety. Having a child who is a picky, or selective, eater can be both frustrating and stressful especially if there is a concern the child isn’t eating enough to satisfy their needs.
Does my child eat enough?
Rest assured that food selectivity during the early years is most often normal. And, if your child is growing and developing normally, it is likely that his or her needs are being met. It is also important to note that the majority of children have a natural ability to self-regulate their food intake. Meaning, they know when they are hungry and they know when they have had enough to eat. If you are a parent or guardian of children, it is your responsibility to determine what, where and when to eat. It is children’s responsibility to decide if they want to eat and how much they want to eat. This is known as the, division of responsibility in eating, and is a well-researched approach to feeding children in a way that encourages them to become competent eaters and grow into their bodies in a healthy way.
Helpful tips for parents:
- Create a relaxed eating environment. Keep the conversation positive and try to establish a few important boundaries, such as no toys, electronics, personal devices or television during mealtimes.
- Get your child involved. The more children are involved in choosing and preparing food, the more likely they will be to eat it.
- Avoid bribery! Avoid bribing or pressuring your children to eat their vegetables by offering them dessert as a reward. Research shows that bribing kids to eat healthy foods does not promote healthy food preferences, and it teaches them that dessert holds greater value.
- Give back the food control. When eating becomes a source of stress or conflict, your child may develop a negative attitude toward food. Instead, allow your child to control his or her own eating.
- Offer new foods alongside familiar foods. At each meal, offer small amounts of one or two foods that you know your child will eat. Offer new items along with the familiar ones.
- Try, try, and try again. If your child won’t eat something one day, it doesn’t mean he or she will never eat it. Continue offering it in small servings without pressure or bribery to eat it.
- Be a healthy eating role model. Kids pay attention to everyone around them. The best way to influence them is by example!
- Pack nutrition into snacks. Offer choices for nutritious snacks. For extra protein that tastes like a rice crispy treat, suggest NuGo Family Vanilla Yogurt.
Reference: Ellyn Satter Institute