Children should never be forced to eat. It’s the parent’s responsibility to provide healthy and nutritious food for regularly scheduled meals and snacks, but the child should decide how much food he or she is going to eat. Forcing children to eat or asking them to “take two more bites” interferes with their ability to control how much to eat. When children don’t learn to regulate their food intake based on hunger or fullness, it can set them up for struggles with overweight and obesity later in life.
If you have a child who is a picky eater, don’t underestimate the role you play in modeling that behavior. If your child can see that you won’t eat broccoli, chances are he or she won’t either. Try sitting down to eat meals as a family. Children who regularly eat meals with their family eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, saturated fat, and drink less soda that children who do not.
Visit the MissouriFamilies website for more information about Making Mealtime Pleasant with Young Children. For easy fruit and vegetable dishes, try the Seasonal and Simple Cookbook.
Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension, WissmannM@missouri.edu