By Anita Romaniw
of the calls I receive from parents focus on
how to get their kids to eat "what they
should be eating." This can be challenging,
but there are many things that parents can do
to encourage healthier eating habits in their
children. Here's my advice for dealing the most
frequent questions I get from parents.
My preschooler won't try anything new. What's
wrong with her?
are naturally neophobic and uncomfortable with trying new
things. Simply put, they prefer what is familiar to them.
However, children learn by copying their parents, so set
an example by eating a variety of foods with them at meal
and snack times.
strategy is to invite your kids' friends over for a meal,
as children will often eat what their friends eat. Work
at involving your children in meal planning and meal preparation
- they will be more likely to eat what they have helped
prepare and serve.
serve a variety of food choices and let your child choose
from what is offered. Staying relaxed at the table goes
a long way towards encouraging your child to accept a new
food. Getting excited or upset about your child's food refusal
will just work against you, for your child will learn that
your desperation gets him more attention.
the temptation to coax, bribe or instruct your child to
eat; pressure makes children less willing to try new foods.
Keep in mind; it can take 20 exposures to a new food before
a child learns to like it.
It really bothers me when my child refuses to
eat something that he loved yesterday. How do
I get him to eat properly?
learn very early in life that one of the best ways to get
their parents' attention is by refusing to eat. This is
your child's way of exerting power. Help prevent battles
with food by eating meals without commenting on your child's
decision to not eat. Let your child know when the next meal
or snack time is, and do not offer anything until then.
short-order cook for your child (ie. prepare mealtime substitutes
because your child refuses to eat what is on the table)
or you can look forward to ongoing food battles and unpleasant
control struggles between you and her.
acknowledge that your child may be tired, sad or just not
hungry at this particular time. Reassure him that he can
choose to not eat right now but you would like him to sit
with you at the table during mealtime. This helps establish
and maintain healthy mealtime habits both now and down the
Should I give my child more fruit juice if she
won't eat her vegetables?
short answer to this is "no." Drinking juice can
decrease your child's appetite for food and it is just not
a good habit to get into. It is recommended that preschoolers
be offered no more than ½ to 1 cup of fruit juice
per day as the majority of their fluid needs come from milk
and plain water.
fruit juice, whole fruits and vegetables are packed with
a wonderful array of nutrients, fiber and healthy plant
chemicals needed for optimal growth, development and disease
question really is: how do we make fruits and vegetables
more appetizing? Use the benefits of color to attract your
child to fruits and veggies, and do what works specifically
for them. Have them choose whatever raw veggies they find
appealing and serve them with their favorite dip or salad
be afraid to top cooked veggies with a favorite cheese sauce;
it's better that they eat veggies with some fat than not
to eat them at all. Serve your child salad on her favorite
plate; younger children can learn to eat salad as finger
foods. Jam-pack your soups, sauces and casseroles with in-season
vegetables; puree them for thicker texture and discerning
eyes. Have your child prepare a little fruit tray that you
can share together at snack time. Like adults, children
eat with their eyes first and the more attractive, the more
your child plant a small vegetable garden in the backyard
or in a container. Children are more inclined to eat vegetables
that they have planted, grown and picked themselves. Be
proud of the skills you are fostering so early on. Take
your children out to local farms to learn how apples, blueberries
or strawberries are grown and picked. Teach them the different
ways to enjoy fresh produce. No doubt, this takes effort,
but the long-term payoffs of healthy, vibrant children may
be well worth your time.
Romaniw is the Community Nutritionist with the Fraser
Health Authority. She can be reached at the Abbotsford Health
Unit at 604-864-3400. Please visit your local health unit
for current recommendations and resources on feeding children.