Kids and their picky appetites!


By far the most common complaint among parents of young children is that the child simply won’t eat. Rest assured children rarely starve themselves deliberately. Parents have expectations about how the child should eat, which will never match the way children really do eat. Parents, it would be easier to change your expectations about your children’s eating habits than to force them to try to eat better, or worse yet force a life time of too much food on your child.

Children grow rapidly from birth to eighteen months. Their appetites are voracious and they are excited about food and eating. Then from ages one through seven growth slows and children need fewer calories and therefore have less of an appetite. At this time parents worry that their child isn’t eating enough and wonder if he or she is abnormal.

The most common concerns voiced by parents about their young children’s eating habits are-

*Food jags, eating only a very few foods

*Dawdling over food, playing with their food but not eating it

*Food rituals including tantrums if a food they do not like is served, wrong plate,

cup, or bowl

*Eating too much sugar and junk food

Some of these can be controlled before they become habits, some cannot. If you do not introduce them to junk food, they will not know what it is. It is also important that food tantrums do not spoil everyone else’s meal nor the tantrum be given any undue attention.

A young child’s stomach is very small; a serving of food for a young child is one tablespoon per year of age, although they may eat more. A serving for a three year old would be three tablespoons, and so on. Also keep in mind that young children are not able to eat enough in three meals to satisfy their nutrient and calorie needs, so they may want to eat as often as seven times per day. If your young child is very hungry by dinner, it’s usually because their dietary needs have not been met earlier in the day.

What is your responsibility as a parent? Simply to provide nutritious foods in appropriate amounts at three or four hour intervals and praise the child for what they have eaten. Let it be the child’s responsibility to determine how much and what foods provided he or she will eat. Meals and snacks should be served in a relaxed manner and when the child has finished remove the food without comment about what is left over. This introduces the child to a wide variety of foods they may or may not eat and they learn to stop when the body signals enough.

Once the child is old enough to have money and be out alone, parents have very little control over food choices. If meals at home are low fat and healthy when they do get older their chances of returning to a healthy diet are good. Till next time, Rebecca