Have your kids ever suffered from a food jag? You know, when they become very selective of the foods they are willing to eat. They may refuse to to try new foods all together or experience a fear of trying new foods. I have some good news for you. It’s normal!
While it’s extremely frustrating and exhausting for us, this is a normal part of development and no cause for alarm. The good news is that most most children will go through a food jag at one point, usually in their toddler and preschool years.
Some food jags may last longer than others, so here is some great advice from our HKI Dietitian, Sarah Sturgill, to turn the tide and get your child experimenting with healthy foods.
- Fruit is a frequent choice during a food jag. It’s a familiar food group, it tastes good, and children have generally been exposed to it from an early age. Continue to offer fruit at each meal along with other healthy options. Children who fear or refuse new foods often need many exposures before they are willing to try them.
- Experiment with cooking methods. Sometimes children have aversions to certain textures or temperatures. Your child may love raw carrots and refuse them when cooked, while preferring steamed broccoli over raw.
- Parents need to give new foods a chance. I’ve seen many parents surprised at what their children are willing to try when offered.
- Never bribe or coerce children to try other foods. Children like to assert their independence, which can be good, but will also lead to a power struggle during mealtimes. Simply offer your child the same meal as the family and allow them to make the choice to eat it or not.
- Never enforce the “clean your plate club.” Children should be allowed to stop eating when they are no longer hungry.
- Be a good role model for your child. BOTH parents should be eating the meal without complaint. Children are excellent imitators, and if you don’t eat it, they won’t either.
- Avoid large snacks or high sugar snacks in between meals to allow your children to become sufficiently hungry.
- Remember that children are born with internal hunger cues and they will not starve themselves. Food jags are generally short lived and will not have a negative impact on their nutrition as long as parents continue to offer a variety of healthy foods.
So parents, rest easy knowing that you’re not alone with food jags. We have all experienced them. How we handle them is what really counts.
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