This week’s Tuesday Tip for Picky Eaters: No separate menus.
A lot of parents can get themselves into a bad habit of becoming a short-order cook when a child refuses to eat what is on the family menu. We worry that our child is not eating enough, so we make separate meals to try to encourage him to eat more. Parents may start offering substitutions of “kids’ foods” like pasta, cereal, crackers or even junk food. But in doing so, we may actually be encouraging picky eating.
|Henry gets to eat from the same menu as the rest of our family.|
First, it is okay for your child to not eat a meal if they are not hungry. Trying to fill them up with simple carbohydrates sets a poor trend and discourages the child from listening to his body’s signals of being hungry or full. Relax and let your child take the lead on how much to eat. Try not to focus on how much your child eats at one meal, instead consider whether your child eats a balanced diet over the course of the week.
|Sometimes Henry is more interested in watching the pigeons than eating his lunch.|
Second, it is okay to let your child feel hungry. I know some people may be uncomfortable with that statement, but I have our pediatrician’s support on this one. If your child does not eat for one or two days, try not to stress out about it. Just keep offering a variety of delicious and nutritious foods at each meal. After missing one, two or even three meals in a row, your child is likely to try the food in front of them at the next meal. And we all know that food tastes really good when we are truly hungry.
Third, children may not have an appetite when they are teething or ill. I know Henry’s appetite dropped when he was sick recently. Children do need to drink fluids regularly (breastmilk, formula, milk and/or water), but they do not have to eat solid food at every meal. Our pediatrician suggested that it is time to meet with your doctor to discuss potential medical issuesif a toddler refuses to eat for three consecutive days, is lethargic, or loses weight.