Has your child refused to eat anything other than chicken nuggets this week? Or would your toddler rather play than eat anything at all? The Mayo Clinic has compiled some helpful hints for encouraging little ones to not only eat regularly, but also healthier.
1. Respect your child’s appetite – or lack of one
If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack. Likewise, don’t bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or to clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration. Try serving small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give them the chance to ask for more on their terms.
2. Stick to a routine
Serve meals and snacks at the same times every day. Provide juice or milk with the food, and offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice or milk throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.
3. Be patient with new foods
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes that first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods.
4. Make it fun
Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner and serve a variety of brightly colored foods.
5: Ask your child to help
When you’re at the grocery store, ask your child to help select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. At home, encourage your child to help rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table. They’ll feel a part of the entire process.