My son is 4 years old and only likes hot dogs, spaghetti, and french fries. I've tried to introduce new foods, but he refuses to even try them. What else can I do? E.M.
This is a dilemma many parents face. First and foremost, remember your job as a parent is to teach your child skills that will help him or her be healthy and successful throughout life.
Healthy eating is one of the most important behaviors to teach as it has the potential to impact your child's wellness, social acceptance, emotional well-being, and even their life span. In fact, according to recent research published in the journal Pediatrics, children of this generation may be the first generation to actually have a shorter life span than their parents.
It is never too late to help a child eat healthier. Below are some tips on teaching children healthy eating:
- Parents establish meal times, not children.
- Parents establish foods, not children. Provide only foods that are nutrient-dense, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Don't offer (or have in the house) foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients such as ice cream, fried foods, cookies, and sweetened beverages.
- Keep encouraging your child to try a new food. New healthy foods may need to be introduced as many as 10 times before your child develops a taste for it.
- Use nonfat or low-fat dairy products.
- Be aware of appropriate portion sizes. Start children off with smaller amounts of food and have them request more, rather than feeding them what you think they want or need.
- Limit snacking especially in response to boredom, and eliminate sweetened (artifically or otherwise) beverages as snacks (eg, juice, soda, sports drinks). Offer fruit if child wants something sweet. See Yogurt Sundae.
- Have regular family meals.
Begin today! Your children will thank you later.
The Family Food Coach welcomes your questions. Please send an email with Ask the Coach in the Subject line. Due to volume, all questions may not be published or answered.