Seems that I spend several times a day discussing “food battles” with my patients and their families. I guess the longer I practice the more I don’t think we should even have to discuss how often parents “battle” with their kids about eating.
From the early days of parenting when a baby is first offered either breast or formula, they are not asked “do you like this?”. It is taken for granted that an infant will eat and grow and there you have it. The easiest days of parenting, correct? (except for a few months of sleep deprivation). But once that baby begins to eat the discussions start about “he makes a face when he eats spinach”, or “she will only eat chicken tenders from Chik-fil-a”, or “he only likes pasta and won’t eat meat”, or even “I make 3 diferent meals for my 3 kids”. If you have a child older than 9 months you understand what I am talking about.
Food is necessary to nutrition, growth and health. But, with that being said, parents have to trust that a child WILL EAT when they are hungry. Really, hunger drives us all to eat, eventually. That bowl or cereal, or the steamed vegetables or even the dreaded chicken breast will get eaten if your child gets hungry enough. I remember reading somewhere that , “ a parent’s job is to provide food for their children at appropriate meal times, and child’s job is to decide if they will eat it.” In other words, make the meal whether for your toddler or teen and “forget about it”. Meal time needn’t be a battle but more a gathering to enjoy being together eating is just a bonus.
As an adult, when you go to a dinner party, you don’t ask what they are serving before you accept, nor do you tell the host/hostess, I hate lamb!! (my example). You just smile and find something to eat and there is not a battle. We all need to approach family meals as a dinner party. Our children are our guests, and sometimes they like what we fix and other times they push some food around their plate and choose not to eat. The good news for most children is that there is another meal to follow.
So, think about it and don’t let certain food likes and dislikes dictate mealtime. The more foods young children are exposed to the better chance they have of EVENTUALLY becoming a well rounded eater. Children’s taste buds change with time as well, so you will find some foods that a 3 year old loved is no longer the favorite at 13 years of age.
Well balanced, nutritious, colorful meals are the family goal and “food battles” can be left out of the vocabulary.