I had an interesting question from a reader recently that I thought would benefit everyone…

Question:  I have 3 kids – ages 5 years, 3 years, and 20 months. Their eating habits are all different. The 5 year old will not eat any vegetables, meat of any kind, most fruits, or most whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc…) What I mean by she won’t eat it is, a typical healthy dinner (chicken breast, brown rice, and mixed veggies) takes at least an hour for her to eat. We discipline her, tell her how good for her it is, restrict sweets, and give her small portions cut small. She will take a bite, gag – spit it out. We will discipline and try again. Usually after an hour or so she has eaten 6-8 bites and we let her be done. This happens EVERY TIME that the meal has her forbidden foods. She has been like this for as long as I can remember. Her favorite foods are cheese, pasta, bananas, tortillas, yogurt….. What do we do???

Our second child who is 3 eats everything!!! She loves veggies and meat. She has eaten everything since before she had teeth. What can we do to keep up her good behavior?

Our 20 month old just started eating solids. He was a preemie and needed to be on Pediasure for his calories. Since he has started eating small meals (bites) how can we know he’s getting enough to eat. How many calories does he need? What can we do to ensure he has healthy eating habits??

Ok, last question, do any of the kids need to be taking any vitamin or mineral supplements?


Answer:  I also have two children, ages 7 and 9.  Although their reactions to foods they don’t like aren’t quite as bad as your 5 year old, they still sometimes don’t want to eat what we serve them.  My son would be quite happy if we fed him pasta and bread all day long.  What we have found are several things that I hope help!

1.  No child will starve themselves.  If the food choices they want are suddenly not available – REALLY not available – not for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks – they will eventually eat what is served to them.  It may take a few days to break the old habits and break the addiction to unhealthy foods (especially cheese) – but they will not starve themselves.  (This can be quite an emotionally difficult couple of days for the parents to endure.  Don’t have unhealthy food choices available during those couple of days or you will give in.)

2.  Nothing quite works as well as true hunger to help a child eat what is served to them.  If I make something for dinner that is not my son’s favorite food – I make sure he is really hungry by dinner.  I will either eliminate snacking after lunch, or make sure it is a very light, healthy snack at least 3 hours before dinner.  I also try to take into account my child’s taste-bud differences.  We love homemade salsa but have found our 9 year old prefers store bought salsa.  I just figured out that she, like her Nana, does not like cilantro, which I use a lot of in our homemade salsa.  So, I have recently modified my salsa recipe to better accommodate her tastes as well.

3.  If they don’t eat what we serve them, then they get it at the next meal until it is gone.  We don’t let out children hardly touch their plate at dinner and then get a nice snack before bedtime.  We save their plate, store it in the refrigerator, and then heat it and serve it to them when they say they are hungry.  Just last night, our son’s prayer before going to bed was ‘Please God, don’t make me eat my dinner for breakfast.”  We did have pity on him after that prayer and he got something else to eat for breakfast today!

I hope these suggestions help.  It can be quite hard to break food habits in our children, because we hate to see them “suffer”. However, it’s better to let them suffer a little now and learn good food habits which will last them for a lifetime.  Also, we as parents have to make sure that we are modeling great eating habits to our children.  They see it all – no matter how much we think they don’t.

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