A lot of children go through the stage of refusing to eat certain food or not eating at all, especially when they would rather play or do other things. How do you monitor your child’s eating habits during the most difficult years?
Serve Meals on a Routine
If you have a total of 5 meals a day at home, make sure to stick to that everyday to avoid eating in between meals. Serve meals at the same times everyday so that the child’s stomach gets used to the schedule without having to crave for snacks that can ruin his/her appetite.
Don’t Force It
Don’t force your child to eat if he/she doesn’t feel hungry or like the food. This will create a negative atmosphere during mealtimes and might be used in the future as an excuse to ignore the hunger he/she feels. Mealtimes should be relaxing, not frustrating for the members of the family. Children will also rarely sit through a long meal, so create a strategy to make them stay and finish their meals. You can serve the food using different meal phases, for example, so that they will look forward to the food that’s served next.
Ask What the Child Wants
Take your child to the grocery next time you shop for supplies, so he/she can see that there are so many vegetables and fruits available besides his/her favorite hotdog. Point out and name all the food and ingredients that you see. When at home, ask the child to help prepare the food so that he/she can appreciate all the effort that goes into the preparation. Make the task fun by cutting the ingredients into various shapes or by serving the food with his/her favorite sauce.
Introduce New Food
It’s natural for a child (and even adults) to refuse to eat food that doesn’t look familiar. Don’t force new food on the child, but you can expose it to him/her gradually so that he/she will be tempted to try. You can also serve it along with his/her favorite food and then ask if the new food tastes good when he/she takes the first bite. Serve only small portions so that he/she doesn’t get used to having leftovers. You can also show him/her one of your cookbooks and ask him/her to pick the next food he/she wants served in the next meal.
Try a Different Tactic
Some food taste better when served in a different way. If you want your child to try new vegetables for example, make sure to serve it along with ingredients that he/she is willing to eat, but you should also try to cook it in a different way. Your child might have a natural preference for sweet or salty food, so use that to your advantage when preparing meals.