I sometimes wonder how some children manage to get enough energy to keep them going and going and going. If your youngster is one of the many who pick and choose the foods they like most, he or she may often get on food jags, eating the same foods for all meals or even refusing food altogether. In my house this week, my 3-year-old is refusing to eat anything but peaches and bread! But I’m not too worried about this new phase; experts suggest it’s normal and may not last too long. In fact, in most cases like this, children are getting all the nutrients they need despite their limited intake.
As children grow, their needs start to change. The rapid growth they experienced in the first couple of years of life starts to slow and they require less food. Between birth and age 2, babies will as much as quadruple their weight, but then they will gain only a few pounds a year between the ages of 2 and 5.
Toddlers and preschoolers are asserting their new-found control when they play with toys instead of sitting at a table, or eat only the same foods meal after meal. It’s OK to allow your child to assert a certain level of independence.
Still, there are ways you can keep your child’s nutrition on track. Remember to avoid offering snacks too close to mealtimes. (There really was some merit in your mom’s telling you this would ruin your appetite!) And don’t allow your child to fill up on juice and milk at mealtime. One way to achieve this is to limit fluids offered at the table until after the meal has been eaten.
If you are concerned that your child’s menu is too limited, keep in mind that you are his or her role model. If you don’t eat green vegetables, it’s likely that your child won’t eat them either. Lately, I’ve found that my son has developed an interest in what the people around him are eating. During a recent trip to a restaurant he ate the entire serving of broccoli off my plate and has been obsessed with vegetables ever since!
Finally, if you want to introduce new foods to your child, be realistic. It takes many introductions of a new item until it is accepted and familiar. Start by offering only small samples, but make sure that you try repeatedly and don’t give up if it’s refused on your first try.
If you’re also dealing with a picky eater, it’s usually not worth all the battles to get your child to eat what you’ve planned for him or her — and you may find yourself making the same threats your parents made when you were young. I know that in my house we may be trading some vegetables for dessert in the near future.
Author: Cheryl Koch, M.S., R.D. Read the comments and discussion here