Feeding my child is very difficult. How can I make mealtimes less of a hassle?
Here are 6 common unpleasant and unhealthy childhood eating situations and tips to handle them. Also, remember that food should be used as nourishment, not as a reward or punishment. In the long run, food rewards or bribes usually create more problems than they solve.
Feeding Challenges and Solutions
Food Jags: Eats one and only one food, meal after meal
Solution: Let the child eat what he or she wants if the jag food is healthy. Make sure the child is hungry at mealtime and offer other foods at each meal before the jag food. Don’t remove the jag food, but offer it as long as the child wants it. After a few days, the child likely will try other foods. Food jags rarely last long enough to cause any harm.
Food Strikes: Refuses to eat what’s served, which can lead to “short-order cook syndrome”
Solution: Make sure the child is hungry when mealtime comes. Do not offer juices, sweetened drinks, or snacks too close to mealtime. Have whole-grain bread and rolls as well as fruit available at each meal,so there are usually choices that the child likes. Be supportive, set limits, and don’t be afraid to let the child go hungry if he or she won’t eat what is served.
“The TV Habit”: Wants to watch TV at mealtime
Solution: Turn off the TV. Watching TV during mealtimes is a distraction that prevents family interaction and interferes with a child’s eating. Value the time spent together while eating. Often it is the only time during the day that families can be together.
The Complainer: Whines or complains about the food served
Solution: First ask the child to eat other foods offered at the meal. If the child refuses, have the child go to his or her room or sit quietly away from the table until the meal is finished. Don’t let him or her take food along, return for dessert, or eat until the next planned meal or snack time.
“The Great American White Food Diet”: Eats only white bread, potatoes, macaroni and milk
Solution: Avoid pressuring the child to eat other foods. Giving more attention to finicky eating habits only reinforces a child’s demands to limit foods. Continue to offer a variety of foods from all the food groups. Encourage a taste of whole grains as well as red, orange, and green foods. Eventually the child will move on to other foods.
Fear of New Foods: Refuses to try new foods
Solution: Continue to introduce and reinforce new foods over time. It may take many tries before a child is ready to taste a new food…and a lot of tastes before a child likes it. A good starting point is to encourage the child to simply allow a small portion of the new food to sit on his or her plate. Don’t force the child to try new foods. Also, remember that you are a role model—make sure your child sees you enjoying the food.
Note: Do not feed children younger than 4 round, firm food unless it is chopped completely. The following foods are choking hazards: nuts and seeds; chunks of meat or cheese; hot dogs; whole grapes; fruit chunks (such as apples); popcorn; raw vegetables; hard, gooey, or sticky candy; and chewing gum. Peanut butter can be a choking hazard for children younger than 2.
Feeding Kids Right Isn’t Always Easy: Tips for Preventing Food Hassles (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)