Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting Tots to Eat Right

Power struggles at the dinner table can be avoided if you start early. Children's food preferences start early and habits are formed by the parents, good or bad, intentional or not.
Parents need to choose what, when, and where the child will eat. Let the child decide how much. They won't go hungry! A child who fills up on between-meal snacks will never eat broccoli or much of anything at dinner. Take control, but offer choices. For example, let them decide between 2 or 3 vegetable options that you choose for dinner. Don't allow french fries, for instance, to be one of those options! Also, don't be alarmed over an occasional lack of appetite. Pediatricians agree that it is normal for children to eat less during some stages of growth, and eating patterns vary from child to child. Toddlers are busy. They have a whole world to explore and it’s hard to sit for a meal. They need less food and are less interested in eating. You can keep them more focused on meals by keeping distractions such as loud noises, toys, and T.V. out of kitchen. Typically, a toddler of 6 months to 2 years needs about 40 calories a day per inch of height. And an average 2 - 6 year old requires almost 1300 - 1800 calories a day.
It is best not to use food as punishment or reward; this teaches emotional attachments to food. Explain to kids that treats are fine on occasion, and other foods are meant for meals.
Encourage kids to eat a wide variety of foods, and practice what you preach! You are their most influential example. Cooking together is a good way to encourage kids to try new things. Think bright colors and fun shapes. Like adults, toddlers eat with their eyes first. Use cookie cutters to make almost anything into an appealing shape. Make foods attractive and fun, and cut things in small pieces for young children. Although they may not eat perfectly every day, they tend to eat well enough over the course of several days or a week.

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