Jun 21, 2017
“My child used to eat nearly everything I put in front of him, but now there are times when he skips entire meals. He either wants something other than what I cooked, or he says he isn’t hungry. Is this normal?”
Young children do not have many opportunities to be in charge, but eating is something they can control. This is especially true once children begin feeding themselves; they can decide what to eat, how much, and when. If you are concerned about your child’s health, consult with your pediatrician. Most likely your child is just demonstrating his power to make choices, and there are some strategies you can put into place to encourage healthy eating habits.
- Prepare meals together. Children are more likely to try new foods or be interested in eating when they have helped in the cooking process. Stirring, measuring, and pouring are some ways your young child can assist you in the kitchen.
- Frequently offer new foods. Children like what they already know, so it may take 10-15 times of being introduced to a new food before they are willing to eat it.
- Create mealtime routines. Establish consistent snack/meal times so your child will look forward to them. Meals with the family should also be about more than just the food. Include your child in the conversation and use it as a time to connect.
- Keep reasonable expectations. Many children are not able to sit still at the table for more than ten minutes, so be willing to let them leave the table when they seem to be finished eating.
- Avoid forcing your child to eat. Forcing children to eat usually leads them to eat less. As a parent, your job is to provide healthy food options; your child’s job is to eat them. By not forcing your child to eat, you are teaching him to listen to his body. When he is hungry, he will eat.
TIP: Children learn about food by watching their parents. Set a good example by eating a variety of foods that line up with what you want them to eat.