There aren’t many parenting challenges that cause more concern, conflict, and sheer frustration than a child who won’t eat. Attempts to balance your youngster’s need for proper nutrition with their finicky tastes can drive you to the brink of insanity. Take heart! Today’s video has some straightforward, effective tips to help end the battle at the dinner table.
Dana Obleman: Hi, I’m Dana. Welcome to this week’s video. Today I want to talk about your child not eating. I get emails from people all the time saying, “Dana, my child my won’t eat.”
First of all, let’s look at that sentence, “your child won’t eat”.
I know that that’s not true and you know that that’s not true. You child does eat. He just doesn’t eat what you want him to. Today I’m going to give you a few tips for making the experience a little more manageable.
I’m a firm, firm believer in not forcing kids to eat. I think that’s a terrible relationship that you’re setting up. That there’s some foods that are yucky and I have to eat them. There’s other foods that are delicious and I get to eat them. It really sends a confusing message to children about what the purpose of food is.
Don’t force. What you need to do though, is first of all look at the timing. If you’re talking about a toddler here, even a preschooler, they need to eat roughly every two hours.
A lot of people let too much time pass. What happens when a child gets too hungry, they don’t eat. Or they get so frustrated their blood sugar drops and they get grumpy and fatigued. Then they just refuse to eat. You really want to keep an eye on the time. Every two hours there should be a meal or a snack.
Tip number two is that you should provide some sort of choice around the meal or the snack. A good rule of thumb is three things. Maybe snack time there’s some cheese, some bread and butter and some grapes, let’s say.
You put those out in front of your child. That is really a good strategy for toddlers. They like to feel like they’re a little bit in control of some situations. Not too much control. That really throws them off. But a little bit of control. Putting out some choices before them and saying, “It’s up to you. You have whatever you like. You want more grapes? Sure I’ll get you more grapes. You want to just eat the cheese? That’s fine too. “You want to take the pressure off. The minute you make this a battle of wills, most children, they’ll go for it with you.
My first son, there was no way I could win a battle of wills around food with him, period. [laughs] Lord knows I’ve tried. You really don’t want to get into a battle of wills. If today they eat more cheese, guess what? Five days from now they’ll probably eat more grapes.
You really need to look at what the child eats over the course of the week, not a day, OK? They’re a little bit different than us. They eat what they need. Sometimes they need more carbohydrates. Sometimes they need more fruits and vegetables. They’re pretty good at regulating what they need.
We need to trust that. Many people get into this mindset, “he’s not eating enough vegetables. I have to force vegetables upon him.” You’re not trusting your child’s body. They’re really good. They have not yet developed all the bad habits around food that we have, as adults. They’re very good at regulating their calories.
Another thing you want to keep an eye on is juice and milk consumption. Biggest pitfall for anyone who tells me that their child won’t eat. Often it’s because they’re consuming too much fluid.
If your child is having three huge bottles or glasses of milk in a day, that’s going to take up at least half of their calorie need. They don’t need to eat as much food now. They’ve already got the calories from the milk or juice.
Have a look at that, OK? Change the focus. My firm belief is that you, as the parent, decide when and what. What time is meals and what will it be. Your child is responsible for deciding if and how much. There might be times where they don’t choose any of it. You have to let it go.
Know that there’s no food until next snack or mealtime. What a lot of toddlers will do naturally is graze. They want a few crackers here, twenty minutes later they want half a banana and so on.
Given the choice, that’s what most toddlers will choose, is to graze. You decide when and what. They decide if and how much. You really have to back off. That’s hard, I get it. I’ve been there. I know that that’s really hard. Otherwise you’re just going to set up this really negative relationship with food.
Every meal and snack is going to be a battle that you feel like you have to fight and win. It’s just not pleasant for anybody.
I hope that helps you today. Thanks so much for watching.
Also, if you are are looking for a way to get your toddler to eat new and healthy foods, check out The Food Sense Program! Designed with the help of a nutritionist, it is a guide to help your fussy eater develop a better attitude around healthy food!