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Mealtime

  • Posted on Jan 10, 2019

Many toddlers and preschoolers are good company at mealtime, while other’s throw their biggest temper tantrums and food on the floor, so be patient and take each day at a time!

It is common for 2- to 5-year-olds to develop (seemingly overnight) specific food preferences. In some cases, they’ll eat only yellow foods or foods covered completely with applesauce. In other cases, the selection shrinks to five foods total, one of them goldfish, which can be frustrating, to say the least.

Keep Calm and Carry On
One thing a parent needs to accept: Inconsistency rules the day, so don’t get flustered. Your child may be less hungry some days because she was less active the day before. He/She may have seen another child eating something you’d never think of feeding her for dinner, such as a jelly doughnut. Take heart: When children are stubborn about eating at this age, it is part of learning to be independent and in control.

Control and More Control
Children often use food to display control, which is natural in a preschooler. Even at the height of these difficult periods, children will not starve themselves and they rarely lose weight. However, if you do suspect weight loss, or if you notice other symptoms of illness such as fever, nausea, or diarrhea along with a sudden change in appetite, consult your child’s healthcare provider.

Mealtime Strategies That Work
Here are some strategies to help you and your child have more pleasant mealtimes:

  • Offer your child nutritious foods and let her decide what and how much to eat. You are the supply agent, and she is the eater. You are in control of what’s in the house and on the table; she’s in control of what goes in her mouth.
  • Ex. Would you like an apple or pear with lunch? Or green beans or peas with dinner?
  • Anticipate that she will imitate her peers with regard to likes and dislikes and that these will change constantly. Give your kids what you are eating.
  • Battles about food are common, and eating gets lost in the struggle. These are really about control. Know what you can and cannot control.
  • The best advice is for parents and other frequent caregivers to be good role models. Children will eat in whatever way their family does, eventually.
  • Practice healthy eating behaviors, including serving/choosing a variety of foods, trying new foods, and not overeating.
  • Try to eat meals together as a family whenever possible. And not in front of the TV.
  • Foster a relaxed atmosphere at mealtimes, and try not to rush your child. On the other hand, if she takes longer than 30 minutes to finish, she’s not really hungry, so give it up.

Sarah Caudle, PA-C