Healthy Eating for Children - Topic Overview
What causes poor eating habits?
Poor eating habits
can develop in otherwise healthy children for several reasons. Infants are born
liking sweet tastes. But if babies are going to learn to eat a wide variety of
basic foods, they need to learn to like other tastes, because many nutritious
foods don't taste sweet.
Available food choices. If candy and soft drinks are always available, most children
will choose these foods rather than a more nutritious snack. But forbidding
these choices can make your child want them even more. You can include some
less nutritious foods as part of your child's meals so that he or she learns to
enjoy them along with other foods. Try to keep a variety of nutritious and appealing food
choices available. Healthy and kid-friendly snack ideas include:
- String cheese.
- Whole wheat
crackers and peanut butter.
- Air-popped or low-fat microwave
- Frozen juice bars made with 100% real
- Fruit and dried fruit.
- Baby carrots with hummus
or bean dip.
- Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit.
The need for personal choice. Power struggles between a parent and child can affect eating
behavior. If children are pressured to eat a certain food, they are more likely
to refuse to eat that food, even if it is something they usually would enjoy.
Provide a variety of nutritious foods. Your
child can decide what and how much he or she will eat from the choices
Emotion. A child's sadness,
anxiety, or family crisis can cause undereating or overeating. If you think
your child's emotions are affecting his or her eating, focus on resolving the
problem that is causing the emotions instead of focusing on the eating
If your child is healthy and eating a nutritious and
varied diet, yet seems to eat very little, he or she may simply need less food energy
(calories) than other children. And some children need more daily
calories than others the same age or size, and they eat more than you might
expect. Every child has different calorie needs.
In rare cases, a
child may eat more or less than usual because of a medical condition that
affects his or her appetite. If your child has a medical condition that affects
how he or she eats, talk with your child's doctor about how you can help your
child get the right amount of nutrition.