Common Eating Problems & How to Cope
Refusal to Eat
As the Child Sees It:
I’m not hungry.
I’m sick.
I’ve found a new way to get attention.
As You May See It:
I must make him eat.
Growing children need food.
How to Cope: Respect the wisdom of a child’s own body.  A skipped meal will not hurt a healthy child.  Remove the food without fuss after a reasonable length of time (20 – 30 minutes).  When possible, involve child in food shopping, preparation, and serving.  Supervised children are able to pour milk, make sandwiches, set the table, and stir the pot.
Food Jags: Getting Hooked on One Food and Wanting it for All Meals and Snacks
As the Child Sees It:
I’ve found a wonderful new food.
I’ve found a way to manipulate my caregiver(s).
As You May See It:
I must make sure she eats a sensible diet.
How to Cope: Food jags aren’t unusual in children or adults.  They won’t last long if you don’t make an issue of them.  You may need to negotiate with a child when and how much of the desired food is appropriate.
Dislike of New Foods
As the Child Sees It:
I don’t like the taste, colour, smells, and/or look of this new food.
I don’t want to try anything new today.
As You May See It:
I like this food. I think the child should learn to like it too.
The child should adjust to eat the same as others.
How to Cope: Children, like adults, will have a few dislikes. If the dislike is treated casually, a child will probably learn to like it at a later date. Remember that children have very sensitive taste buds. If you can serve the food differently, try it. For example, serve raw vegetables instead of cooked ones.
Rejection of Vegetables
As the Child Sees It:
I don’t like the taste or smell of cooked vegetables.
Daddy/Mommy never eats them.
I’m bored with having the same ones over and over again.
As You May See It:
I think every child should eat cooked vegetables as part of a sensible diet.
How to Cope: It doesn’t matter if the vegetables are eaten cooked, raw, or even frozen. Just be sure they are not overcooked. Children often prefer bright colours and crisp textures of raw vegetables. You may consider trying vegetable juices or a blend of vegetable and fruit juices.
Remember: children are the world’s best imitators! Your likes and dislikes are quickly noticed and copied!
Dawdling or Playing with Foods.
As the Child Sees It:
I want to explore this food.
I need time to get used to these utensils.
I’m not hungry.
I’m too tired.
As You May See It:
I don’t think children should play with their food.
How to Cope: A child needs time to learn to use utensils. If possible, begin feeding the child a few minutes before the rest of the children. You might occasionally take the time to eat slowly with the child. Children learn by touching. Give them the time and opportunity to explore food.
As the Child Sees It:
I get approval and attention from others when I eat a lot.
Everyone asks for second helpings.
As You May See It:
When he’s good I reward him with a treat like a cookie.
He’ll outgrow his baby fat.
A child should learn to clean his plate.
How to Cope: Reduce portion sizes. Don’t force a child to take “just one more bite” or “clean his plate”. Learn to prepare foods without adding extra fat or sugar. Avoid high-fat sauces, breading, or frying foods. Encourage more physical activity. Use a few kind words, a hug, a game, or a toy etc. as rewards and comforters rather than food.

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