Is a child a good judge of the appropriate foods for their body?
Or do we adults know better what is best for them and their health?
Are kids more likely to choose foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt – or foods that are genuinely healthful?
Do kids generally choose the best diet for themselves?
Like every parent who has ever seen kids choosing what they want to eat at a birthday party, the vast majority of kids prefer foods that are sweet, sugary and fatty.
So do adults, for that matter.
However, just because we prefer the taste of those foods doesn’t mean we should eat them at the expense of other, healthier foods.
The difference between adults and kids is that adults know the outcome of eating rubbish foods on a daily basis.
Adults usually have the self-discipline and experience to make better food choices throughout our lives than a typical child would.
If most kids were allowed, they’d eat nothing but junk food. My girls would probably eat nothing but pizza, chips and sweets – oh, and ice cream! Our 12 year old would never, ever eat a vegetable, that’s for sure.
She’s not alone. Most of her friends, given the chance, would be the same.
It is a parent’s job to guide, teach and discipline
Because we choose what our kids eat, they all eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and lots of healthy whole foods.
They’ve been taught that eating healthy is a non-negotiable.
We’ve guided, taught and disciplined them in their food choices – because we have their best interests at heart, and because we know that kids are not yet capable of making the best choices for themselves.
Years of guidance helps good behavior become good habits. Our goal is to give our kids healthy habits to last a lifetime.
How to cure a fussy eater
So here are some tips to get your fussy child eating right.
Everyone is allowed to dislike one thing. It’s okay to have “dislikes”. But we limit those to one item per meal. So if there’s salad, our 13 year old son can forego the tomatoes while our 11 year old daughter skips the avocado. That’s okay. But they have to have salad, and eat everything else in it.
Your child WILL NOT STARVE. Children will not deliberately starve themselves to death through fussiness. If you only offer healthy foods, they will have to eat them eventually. They might try to threaten you with starving themselves, but trust me – it won’t happen. Nobody ever became anorexic because they had to eat their vegetables!
You may have to improve your own diet. If you are eating rubbish, your child will too. Look closely at your own diet – your child’s rubbish diet may simply be a mirror of your own bad habits. This may be an opportunity for you to lift your game too.
No desserts if they don’t finish their mains. If they don’t finish their main meal, desserts and treats don’t happen. Not at all. If you give in, you’re allowing them to replace healthy calories with junk. Again.
No snacking before dinner. Our 12 year old daughter tried the trick of snacking heavily (on junk) before dinner, then claiming she was too full to eat dinner. Then guess what? She as hungry for more junk after dinner. So we stopped the snacking. Problem solved.
If they don’t eat their dinner, they have it for breakfast. That “totally yuck!” chicken curry suddenly becomes edible if they know they’ll be served it for breakfast the next morning if they don’t eat it at dinnertime. This was my brother’s trick for his fussy daughter, and it worked a treat. Now his daughter is one of the least fussy kids I know.
No empty liquid calories. Our kids drink water at home as a mainstay, with the boys getting an occasional glass of milk for extra calories as they’re growing so fast. It’s better for their teeth and their nutrition.
Hungry? Have a raw carrot or a piece of fruit! Our kids get fruit or raw veggies if they’re hungry after school. Or they can make a sandwich. This policy sorts out real hunger from greed / snacky hunger which is often also masked boredom or procrastination.