Healthy Eating for Children - Helping Your Child to Eat Well
Setting the stage for pleasant mealtimes
point to eat as many meals together at home as possible. A regular mealtime
gives you and your family a chance to talk and relax together. It also helps
you and your child to have a positive relationship with food.
- Think of the family meal table as a
conflict-free zone where you each come for positive time together. Save problem
solving and difficult discussions for a separate time and place.
- Save distractions, such as reading, toys, television watching, or
answering the phone, for another time and place.
- Teach and model
good table manners and respectful behavior.
No more power struggles-learning to trust your child's choices during meals and snacks
Most children self-correct their undereating, overeating, and
weight problems when the power struggle is taken out of their mealtimes. But
the hardest part for most parents is stopping themselves from directing their
children's choices ("Eat at least one bite of vegetable." "That's a lot of
bread you're eating." "Clean your plate." "No seconds."). Do your best to avoid
If your child skips over certain foods, eats lightly,
or eats more than you'd like:
- Check yourself. Remember that your child has
an internal hunger gauge that controls how much to eat. If you override those
signals, your child won't be able to tune into that internal hunger gauge as
- Let your child decide when he or she is full. You can
remind children of the next scheduled meal or snack time by telling them,
for example, "You can eat as much or as little as you want now. We will have
our next snack at 4 o'clock."
Expect some rebellion as you change the way you feed your
family. At first, your child may eat only one type of food, eat everything in
sight, or stubbornly refuse to eat anything. Fortunately, no harm is done if
your child chooses to eat too much or skips a meal once in a while.
Gradually, your child's eating habits will balance out. You'll notice
that, as long as you provide nutritious choices, your child will eat a healthy
variety and amount of food each week. Try to relax, and you'll see your child relax too.
Adjusting your approach based on your child's age
Feeding your infant. From birth, infants follow
their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat when they're hungry, and they
stop eating when they're full. Experts recommend that newborns be fed on
demand. Learn more about
feeding your infant.
Feeding your toddler/preschooler. As you introduce your young child to new foods, you are encouraging a love of variety, texture, and
taste. This is important, because the more adventurous your child feels about foods,
the more balanced and nutritious his or her weekly intake will be. Remember
that you may need to present a new or different food a number of times before your child will be comfortable trying it. This is normal. The best approach
is to offer the new food in a relaxed manner without pressuring your