However, most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. Until your child's food preferences mature, consider these tips for preventing mealtime battles.
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If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his or her own hunger and fullness cues. Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her the opportunity to independently ask for more.
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day.
If you child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to eat nutritious food. You can provide milk or percent juice with the food, but offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals. Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again.
Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child's favorite foods. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred. Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating.
Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner. Serve a variety of brightly colored foods. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.
Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
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Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups. Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child's desire for sweets.
You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your child's doctor. He or she can plot your child's growth on a growth chart. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days. The big picture might help ease your worries.
A food log can also help your child's doctor determine any problems. In the meantime, remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight — but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products.
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This content does not have an Arabic version. Make sure you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your plate should look like a rainbow—bright, colored foods are always the best choice! A healthy meal should include:.
Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Also, look for Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age. The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. When you do eat packaged foods, be a smart shopper!
Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium. To maintain your weight, you must eat the right amount of food for your age and body. Water is an important nutrient too! Tea, coffee, and water are your best choices.
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Keep fluids with sugar and salt at a minimum, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise. Want to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck?
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