Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

I can't get my 6 year old to eat anything besides junk. I know if I don't buy it she can't eat it, but she won't eat anything then. She's an only child so it's not like she has a big kid to follow. I eat everything healthy you can think of, but she pays no mind to that. I'm constantly fighting a losing battle. Any ideas?

By CraftyMom from Pasco, FL

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

Sometimes I have a hard time with my seven year old daughter. If you have it in you to get rid of all the junk, and you think you can endure her complaining, then do it. Eventually a hungry child will eat.

One day my daughter was complaining about everything. She complained about dinner and said she wasn't going to eat it. I sent her to her room. I finished my meal, and cleared our plates (throwing out her food). When she came out later, hungry, I told her too bad. She said she wasn't going to eat, I threw out the food, and that was that. Eventually I told her she could have a carrot. She had to get out the carrot, rinse and peel it, and she ate it. She stopped complaining, because it was that, or go hungry.

A more pleasant approach is to have her help you prepare foods. Helping to fix something will make her more excited to try it. Just this weekend, I had my daughter "help" me fix this fruit salad:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fabulous-Fruit-Salad/Detail.aspx

and Texas Caviar:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Texas-Caviar-I/Detail.aspx

She cut grapes in half, measured & poured dried cranberries, scooped yogurt into the salad and stirred the salad. She cut grape tomatoes into quarters for me, helped measure spices, and stirred the Texas Caviar. Afterward, she ate a bit of the salad (and snacked on dried cranberries), and she ate some of the beans from the Texas Caviar. Every little bit helps!

You have to be just as stubborn as your daughter. We just visited the pediatrician about a month ago, and she told us that kids this age 1)aren't always hungry and 2)won't starve themselves. I didn't like being the mean mom and sending her to room without dinner, but she hasn't complained like that again since then. Good luck, and be strong!

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

Mrs Story has some good advise. Let me just add that it will be best if you break your daughter of this habit now while she is young. I now have 2 daughters (ones a teen) and they are the pickiest eaters. They live with their mother but I have a hard time with them when they visit.

One suggestion I will make is to get her to try a little bit of everything before you give her what she wants. Just a spoonful, and tell her she has to swallow it. She might find other things she likes that way. She absolutely needs to try anything she helps you make. My youngest was making food with her grandmother. They made smoothies. My daughter decided she didn't like them because they had banana in them. The thing is she likes bananas, on there own. But she would not try this ice cream smoothie because of that.

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

Does she like spaghetti sauce? I've recently seen that Moms puree veggies and put them (hide them) in the sauce.

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

I just recently watched a TV show explaining there are Tasters and NonTasters. Tasters are ones that can really taste the nuances in food and textures, they are the "picky" eater. NonTasters don't taste like that, it all tastes good, these are people like ME, that struggle with weight.

Either way, you are the parent and you can't feed your kids what you don't buy! No kid will go hungry, really they won't. If you feed them "junk" food, then you'll have a teenager that eats only chicken nuggets, ketchup and french fries (my nephew!). Start gently, replacing french fries with baked potato fries etc.

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

My son is not only picky, but also on a very specific diet. So, getting him to eat a variety of foods an be challenging. His physical therapist suggested trying to introduce a new vegetable onto his plate for a couple of weeks consistently. She suggested sometimes it is a matter of familiarity, as well as getting used to the texture of something. Small introductions over a little bit of time.

Try putting the same 'new' vegetable on their plate every night for a few weeks, don't make them try it at first. Only Ask them after they've seen it laying around for some time. Then, start discussing an 'if you try those green beans'...then you'll get 'x'. 'X' being whatever you think they'd like, and keep trying. Persistence and patience.

Our son now eats broccoli, green beans, carrots, corn etc with no trouble, both of these were items he would not eat before. Oh there is still the occasional 'carrots' I don't like carrots, but he will usually eat a few regardless. Yes, it took patience but was not painful for me. It's really no big deal to put 3 green beans on a small child's plate for a couple of weeks so they'll start eating them without a hassle.

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Anonymous Flag
October 4, 20100 found this helpful

She either eats the healthy food you supply or goes hungry! She ultimately will choose eating over not eating! You need to enforce examples and boundaries above and beyond her tantrums now (which appears to be her form of trying to control and teach you a lesson instead of you guiding ... who is the parent here?) or she will forever have issues with food! On a softer side, do not force her to eat everything you place on her plate but tell her to at least 'try it'. Take the junk food out of the house completely until she learns 'balance'!

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October 4, 20100 found this helpful

Same3 as everyone else-she won't starve, she'll eventually eat when she gets hungry. Tell her if she doesn't want what you fix, she can have peanut butter & .

If you want all that work, get one of those cookbooks that tell you how to "hide" veggies & stuff in the food.

I have 4 kids ages 12,15,23 & 27 & they will eat nearly everything & have since they were babies. When they were babies & then toddlers (who naturally want everything you eat), when I would eat food I knew kids tended to be picky about (salad, broccoli, etc), I would act like it was the best thing I'd ever eaten, smack my lips & tell everyone how good it was, all the while ignoring the baby/toddler who was watching me with big eyes & smacking THEIR lips. Then I would "suddenly" notice the baby/toddler & say "Oh, I'm SO sorry, this is big-people food, you just aren't big enough to eat it yet!". Believe me, when I finally decided they were big enough to safely eat something like salad, they were MORE than ready to try it- and usually liked it!

Of course, they all went through spells of thinking they didn't like something by the way it looked or because they'd never eaten it, or they just didn't like the taste. I had 1 rule : they had to take TWO bites of everything on their plate, the 1st bite because I wanted them to try everything & the 2nd bite because they probably decided they they didn't like it, so didn't really taste the 1st bite! I also explained to them each time that people's tastes change as they get older & sometimes you might like something that used to taste yucky. After the 2 bites, if they still didn't want it, they didn't have to eat it, but I always made sure there was something on their plate they did like.

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Anonymous Flag
October 5, 20100 found this helpful

Good luck. I have been dealing with this issue with my 10 year old for years now. Yes, I have done the withholding of junk food and have been tough on him. Nothing works. I found out he has texture issues. You are a good parent, just keep trying. =-) Don't let others think you are doing a bad job, have had that for years.

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October 5, 20100 found this helpful

Really hungry children eat. Like in countries where there is famine and they finally get some food. Stop urging her to eat. Put the food in front of her, say nothing and when she wants to leave the table let her. Just don't serve junk food. It is the same as not eating if you let her eat junk.

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October 5, 20100 found this helpful

Oh how I feel for you! I went though all this for years with my son - and although the advice given is excellent, I'm the type of parent that simply couldn't bear the thought of leaving my boy hungry. It was mainly a battle of wills until I decided that I had had enough. I gave him what he wanted but sneaked in veggies and stuff whenever I could (in pizza, pureed in with the tomato topping, for example) until one day out of the blue, he asked for broccoli! Then carrots...and we were on a roll! He is 18 now, strong and healthy, and he eats most things with no problem, having likes and dislikes like any other person. It took a while, but we got there in the end. The only thing I was firm about was dessert. Unless he cleared his plate, no matter what it was, he got nothing. I wish you luck. God bless.

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October 5, 20100 found this helpful

You realize that you are the parent, right? It's not up to you to cajole a child into eating what you know is best for them, but it IS up to you to make that choice and STICK WITH IT.

Offer two choices: Take it or Leave it. If said child leaves it, so be it. When he or she starts talking about how hungry they are, whip out the meal and offer it again. If they don't eat what you serve, oh well. THIS is how children really learn. Too many choices, too much wishy washy parenting will only confuse children and overwhelm them. They aren't ready for that kind of choice making.

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October 5, 20100 found this helpful

When I was young, we had two choices, as someone else mentioned: eat what was served, or don't eat. My sister, on the other hand, had a policy: you get a small serving of a new food - say, three green peas for a 3-year-old. If the child liked it, great. Otherwise, there was plenty of other healthy food on the plate, which had already been introduced by this method.

I have one other suggestion. Enlist trusted adults and teens you might know. Invite one or more over for a snack, healthy food, of course... maybe the foods your child is currently refusing. Perhaps if your child sees trusted people enjoying the "suspect" food, or perhaps they could even ad lib things like, "Spinach? Yum! My favorite!"

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October 5, 20100 found this helpful

Hi, I feel bad commenting as I am only just pregnant with my first child now.. so this joy is all ahead of me. Advice I've read or heard from friends on this topic goes something like this:

1) A food must be offered 10 times before it is considered truly rejected. Maybe make a chart, let your child know that you would not consider it 'not liked' until they had tried it enough times.

2) Cook with your kid. get the child to help you make things so they can touch and feel and taste along the way their 'creation'.

3) Be consistent with your rules about food.

4) No child died of hunger. they WILL eat if they are hungry.

5) Hide veggies in more 'palatable' looking foods eg. http://www.thesneakychef.com/

6) My parents: I was not allowed to leave the table (was a very fussy kid) until I had at least tried everything on my plate.

7) Think of cool stories about food. I remember i started eating broccoli the day my aunt described them as tiny fairy trees. Who knows why that made them delicious, but it did... haha

All the best with it!

Lisa

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October 6, 20100 found this helpful

Lisa is right about offering a food over and over again. Just put a sprig of broccoli, or whatever, on the dinner plate every night and don't even mention it. Eventually if the child doesn't feel he/she is fighting with you about it (no one likes to lose) they will try it. Maybe they truly won't like it, and that's okay. But the point is they tried it and may find things they do like.

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October 7, 20100 found this helpful

Another suggestion might be to limit the time she spends watching TV commercials. These are geared to children and are all sugar loaded and unhealthy. So they think that they want them, due to commercials. I actually went without TV at all while my daughter was young. Then I watched with her only a few selected TV shows, and it was OFF the rest of the time. Manipulation via the media is bad enough for adults to have their thinking shaped by it, and how much more so for younger minds!

Another option available is providing health drinks; i.e. she may not like carrots, as steamed, or cooked; how about fresh made from organic carrots carrot juice? Might try starting off with healthy smoothies with strawberries, adding banana, etc, letting her watch you and perhaps help you make them. You could call them health shakes (as opposed to "milk shakes") or whatever creative thing you can come up with! When making them you might say, what do you think it would be like with this added to it? Shall we try it and see? Betting she will be more than happy to consent and before long be smacking her lips!

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October 7, 20100 found this helpful

When our two sons were young and hated all vegetables but loved spaghetti & meatballs, I started chopping up vegetables into very small pieces and adding them to the sauce not only to get more veggies in them but also to stretch the spaghetti sauce to last for several meals for them. They never knew about the veggies and I never told them. As adults, they are no longer picky eaters.

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October 7, 20100 found this helpful

Thank you all! :D LOL. Well I figured she wouldn't starve. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with that idea of "take it or leave it". That's my best option! I guess sometimes when you don't know anyone in your position, you start to question the choices that you make. Like I said, thank you, thank you!!

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October 4, 2010 Flag
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I am a one-on-one with a 5 year old boy. I was told he was autistic, but he mainly is mentally retarded with autistic tendencies. He doesn't eat much. What he does eat is not good for him; chocolate donuts, chocolate cereal, pop tarts with icing on top and cookies. Every once in a while if he is lucky, he gets some fruit but then he doesn't eat it.

I really would like to see his lunch and all the other lunches that are packed up at home to at least have 1 nutritional item that a child would eat. I feel really sorry for this child. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sandy from Baltimore, MD

Answers:

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

Well, you're in a hard position. Maybe if he likes eating sweets he would like eating healthier food that is sweet. You could try peanut butter and bananas, Nutella and celery, stewed apples, candied yams, peanut butter and jelly or honey sandwiches, smoothies, and fruit dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with sugar. This is always a start because if someone likes sweet sugar fruit then they might start to find plain fruit more appealing.

Another solution that could work is to make the foods he likes, but healthier. For instance, you could make healthy cookies. The site "all homemade cookies" has a whole section of healthy cookie recipes. Also, when making cookies and quick breads, it is fine to substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour and add 2 tablespoons of wheat germ to add extra protein. Be a little sneaky with your cooking; add extra apples, veggies etc. to muffins, cut down on the sugar with baking. I have noticed with my kids, if I cut everything into easy to manage pieces and serve them on a tray (cheese, meats, veggies, fruit, pretzels and dips), they just eat it up.

Good luck, I hope some of this gives you some ideas. (11/01/2005)

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

This is really the parents' issue, isn't it? Check with the teacher to see if the parents might be amenable to discussing your concerns. If you can get the parents on board, suggest they pack a healthy food as well as a desired food. Offer a small bit of each on a plate, when the plate is empty, he can have a refill. Being autistic, he won't like this new rule, but I suggest (as a special ed teacher for 30 yrs) you write a social story about the new eating plan. You might try a plate with a favorite character and try to "see Sponge-bob" by clearing the plate. Use non-food rewards as appropriate.

Please remember you are his one-on-one aide. Having been a teacher and worked with countless aides, I don't feel it is up to aides to intervene with parents. I think this communication should come from the teacher or case manager. (11/01/2005)

By Linda

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

Hi, my nephew is autistic and when he was younger like this boy, he only ate green beans and bananas. He had a certain texture thing he went through, from food to toys. I would just try different foods and he will soon go on to other things. Good luck. (11/01/2005)

By Michele

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

What about cutting healthy food into funny shapes with cookie cutters? It might look as fun as junk food. (11/02/2005)

By ludostef

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

I have a 16 year old, and when he was little he was an extremely picky eater. All he liked was cereal, and would eat it 3 or 4 times a day if I let him. I would mix a jar of baby food, like strained green beans with his eggs, not enough to change the color, but just enough. Also, in his meatloaf, or just anything I thought I could get away with. If I was making hamburgers, a half jar of baby food went in it. He still doesn't like "green veggies" or any kind of veggie, but at least I tried. (11/02/2005)

By Jean in GA

Helping a Child Eat More Healthy Food

We have a 7-year-old autistic grandson who also eats that way. When they eat at our house, I try to fix grated carrots. Just grate them and cook with a little liquid. Then drain and mix in some butter and salt. He ate so much the last time, I sent the rest home with them for his snacks. He even liked them cold. (11/02/2005)

By Coreen

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