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Avoiding food fights with your preschooler

As a parent myself, it wasn't too long ago that my teen girls were preschoolers looking to control the dinner table. I had one child who would eat almost anything you placed in front of her while my youngest turned her nose up to almost any vegetable and protein-rich foods that didn't taste like beef or chicken. If you are a parent or caregiver of young children, please read these tips to ensure your meal and mind stay sane during eating time.

One of the first tips that I explain to adults is the feeding/eating responsibilities, who's responsibility is it to do what? You are responsible for deciding what, when, and where your child will eat. Your child is responsible for deciding how much to eat. Understanding these responsibilities will likely help you avoid struggles and control issues related to meals and snacks. Below are some mealtime feeding tips.

Before the meal

  • Involve your child in meal planning, coupon cutting, food shopping, and food preparation. They can help you with tasks such as setting the table, breaking eggs, or loading the dishwasher.

  • Make sure the eating area is quiet, pleasant, and safe for meals and snacks. Turn off the TV or other electronic devices so your child is not distracted.

  • Plan a few minutes of quiet time before each meal. A tired or excited child might not be interested in eating.

  • Make sure your child washes their hands before meals and snacks.

  • Seat your child at a table for both meal and snacks, because it is not safe to allow him or her to eat while walking or playing. Make sure the seat is at a good height for her or him to be comfortable and have the feet supported. The table should be at your child's stomach level.

During the meal

  • Serve meals and snacks at about the same time every day. Give your child enough time to become hungry between meals and snacks.

  • Always supervise your child during meals and snacks.

  • Serve your child most of the foods that the rest of the family is eating.

  • Provide small portions and allow your child to ask for seconds if still hungry. Servings sizes for preschool children are typically 1/4 of an adult's serving size.

  • Don't worry if your child wants to skip a meal. Children usually make up for missed nutrients at later meals or over the course of a couple of days.

  • Serve foods warm and not too hot.

  • Preschoolers usually do not like foods to be combined or put together - do not worry if your child wants to take apart sandwiches and pizza.

What to serve?

  • Meet your child's daily fruit and vegetable goals by serving fresh, canned, or frozen whole fruits and vegetables instead of juice. IF you offer juice, it should be 100% fruit juice, combined with whole fruit, and limited to 4-6 ounces per day.

  • Preschool children need about 5 daily cups of fluid per day from plain water or milk.

  • Serve mostly plain water with meals/snacks or when your child says they are thirsty.

  • Avoid sweet or sticky foods that remain in the mouth for a long time, as these cause cavities.

  • Limit high-sugar and high-salt foods. These foods should be given only as a treat in moderation and should not replace more nutritious foods in meals and snacks.



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