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Fussy Eaters


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For many parents, buying and preparing healthy foods is easy.  It is getting your child to actually eat those nutritious foods that is the hard part.  This can make mealtimes frustrating and leaves parents often wondering if their child is getting enough nutrients.  Balance is one of the most important things when developing healthy eating habits for your child.  Teach your child to eat healthy foods the majority of the time and to save sweet treats for occasional times.  Treats should not be completely banned or else they will be even more appealing to your child.  Encourage healthy habits by having family meal times, by being a good role model and by stocking the house with a variety of healthy food options. Encourage three meals a day, with healthy snacks in between. Let your child help prepare dinner and healthy meals with you from time to time.

Here are some key rules to live by:

  • Parents control the supply lines. You decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Though children may bother their parents for less nutritious foods, adults should be in charge when deciding which foods are regularly stocked in the house. Children won't go hungry. They'll eat what's available in the cupboard and fridge at home. If their favorite snack isn't all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a while so they don't feel deprived.
  • From the foods you offer, children get to choose what they will eat or whether to eat at all.   Children need to have some say in the matter. Schedule regular meal and snack times. From the selections you offer, let them choose what to eat and how much of it they want. This may seem like a little too much freedom. But if you follow step 1, your children will be choosing only from the foods you buy and serve.
  • Stop with the "clean-plate rule." Let children stop eating when they feel they've had enough. Lots of parents grew up under the clean-plate rule, but that approach doesn't help children listen Fussy-Eating-Cocoon-Toddlerto their own bodies when they feel full. When children notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they're less likely to overeat.
  • Start them young. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when children are babies. You may need to serve a new food on several different occasions for a child to accept it. Don't force a child to eat, but offer a few bites. With older children, ask them to try one bite.
  • Eating out children’s menu. Who says children only want to eat hot dogs, pizza, burgers, and macaroni and cheese? When eating out, let your children try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting them try a little of whatever you ordered or ordering an appetizer for them to try.
  • Drink calories count.  Sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for children. Juice is fine when it's 100%, but children don't need much of it — 4 to 6 ounces a day is enough for preschoolers.
  • Food is not love. Find better ways to say "I love you." When foods are used to reward kids and show affection, they may start using food to cope with stress or other emotions. Offer hugs, praise, and attention instead of food treats.
  • Children do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don't skip meals.
  • Limit TV and computer time. When you do, you'll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity. When TV and computer time are limited, they'll find more active things to do. And limiting "screen time" means you'll have more time to be active together.

Final Reminders:

Parents of a fussy eater often worry about starvation or a lack of growth and development:

Will my child grow up to be big and strong? Will my child get sick? Will my child never develop a taste for other foods?

Starvation should not be a concern just because your child hasn't eaten a vegetable or fruit in the past six weeks.  If your child receives good medical attention and is in good health, there's most likely nothing to worry about.  

  • Assemble a support group; partners, grandparents, your childcare provider, your doctor
  • Some of us love to eat and some of us just don't. Children are no different!
  • Bribery and forcing your child to eat will get you nowhere. If you push, the results will probably be unhappy meals, unhappy relationships, and increased defiance. 

At Cocoon Childcare, we understand how important it is to establish good healthy eating practices at a very young age.  We believe in providing highly nutritious, good quality meals, not only for your child's health and physical wellbeing but also to develop their taste buds and social skills involving food.  At Cocoon Childcare, we pledge to provide the very best nutrition for your child, so that it may be one less thing for you to think about.

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