Food Jags

What do you do when youngsters get "stuck" on a food? If he or she keeps asking for the same food meal after meal, the child is on a "food jag." Food jags are common in the toddler years.

More frustrating for you than harmful for kids, you're smart to remain low key about food jags. The more you focus on them, the longer they may last.

Actually, it's okay to offer the food they want again and again and again! Just include other foods alongside to encourage variety. Most "monotonous diners" soon tire of eating the same food so often.

If your child rejects whole categories of food for more than two weeks, talk to your child's doctor or a registered dietitian.

following hunger and satiety cues is part of learning to eat the right amount.

  • Limit table time. Sitting at the table without eating for a long time doesn't teach good food habits. At the end of mealtime, quietly remove the plate.
  • Most of all, relax. And be a good role model (eat your veggies, drink your milk) yourself.
  • Avoid conflict and criticism at mealtime; otherwise your child may use food for "table control." Focus your attention on the positives in your child's eating behavior, not on your child's food. And unless you're prepared for a self-fulfilling prophecy, skip labeling your child as a "picky eater."
  • Remember: What your child eats over several days—not just one meal—is what really counts!

Tasting Something New!

Babies try one new food after another as they start solids, each time adding more food variety to their diet. The tasting adventure continues throughout childhood—and on into adulthood. More variety increases the chance for good nutrition and adds interest and fun to eating. And more variety can mean more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Help children be willing food "tryers." It's part of the challenge and pleasure of learning about food. Be aware: young children typically have more tastebuds and may be more sensitive to flavors than you are.

  • Offer new foods at the start of meals. That's when children are the most hungry. But make the rest of the meal familiar.
  • Encourage children to taste at least one bite of a new food—or a food prepared in a different way. Don't force them. Just be matter-of-fact.
  • Keep quiet about foods you don't like. Try not to let your food dislikes keep your child from trying new foods.
  • Before offering the new food, talk about it: color, texture, size, shape, aroma, not whether it tastes "good" or "bad." Let kids help you prepare it. They'll be more willing to taste!
  • Serve the same food in different forms—for example, raw carrot sticks and cooked carrot coins.

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