Children can learn to enjoy a variety of healthy foods

Are you frustrated from trying to get your children to eat? Meal time can be a positive learning experience for young children. Plan your meals and have a scheduled meal time on most days and see how your child responds.

Does your child refuse to eat their dinner on a regular basis? Are you frustrated from trying to get them to eat? There are common pitfalls to feeding children that many parents relate to. If you are a parent with young children, you are likely to face these issues on a regular basis. Parents often feel like they need to please all family members at the table and in particular, their children. Parents don’t like to hear their children say, “oh, yuck,” or “I don’t like that!” Parents feel like they always have to have food their children like. This is not necessarily the case.

According to Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietician and author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, it is the parent’s job to offer a balanced, healthy meal. It is the child’s responsibility to eat. Instead of fighting with your child, try to plan meals that include both familiar foods your child likes to eat, with less popular or unfamiliar foods. By doing this your child will always have a choice of foods. If they decide they don’t like any of the foods, they can decide to wait until the next meal or have a healthy snack later on if you decide to offer snacks. Remember as a parent, scheduled meal times on most days are important for developing healthy eating habits.

Parents don’t need to be caterers who provide many foods to choose from at one time. Put food on the table that you know your child will be familiar with, then add new foods to the meal. Meal time should be a time your child can learn to experience new foods. This lets your child know they are able to develop a liking for new foods and learn to eat a variety of foods. At the table you can teach your child to accept and refuse foods in a polite manner using “yes, please,” if they want food and “no, thank you” if they do not want the food.

Children need to come to the table hungry in order to be interested in food, but not so hungry that they cannot focus appropriately. Michigan State University Extension reminds that children need snacks between meals, as their bodies are growing and they expend a lot of energy throughout the day. Their stomachs are small so they need to eat more frequently. Use the food guide pyramid from the USDA to guide your choices of food to offer your child. Remember to pick foods you enjoy and try offering a variety of foods to get the proper nutrients into your family’s diet. To contact a nutrition expert in your area, visit the MSU Extension website or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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