Are you tired of preparing food that your child won’t eat? You are probably looking for a solution to get your kids to eat, or at least eat more of what is good for them.

Maybe you have tried catering to your kids by offering only well-liked foods, letting them dictate the menu, or by short-order cooking. You may be giving them too much control over food choices. This approach often results in an exhausted cook and no better nutritional intake for the demanding youngsters.

In an attempt to get a healthy meal (or at least something) into your child, you may have resorted to force, trickery, or bribes. Watch out! These methods exert too much control and often produce resistant, skeptical or resentful reactions that make feeding problems worse.

Helpful mealtime tips

To raise healthy eaters, a change in perspective could be what you need to move from feeding nightmares to manageable mealtimes. The key is understanding that, as a parent, you are responsible for when, where and what your child is fed. This involves setting predictable meal and snack times, providing an appropriate eating environment, and, of course, selecting and preparing the food. Then take a step back and let the kids decide how much, or even whether, to eat. They may not eat exactly what you think they should each day but kids are very good at regulating the amount they eat to meet their body’s requirements and eating the right balance of foods over time when provided with appropriate selection.

To do your job of providing well, focus on choosing tasty, nutritious foods, serving balanced meals, and offering variety over time. Allow kids to build up an appetite; avoid letting them "graze" between set meal and snack times. Involve them in shopping and preparing food, serve familiar, well-accepted foods along with challenging ones, and take their requests occasionally. Permit them to say "No, thank you" instead of "Yuck!" or "I don’t like that!" Encourage, don’t force, them to try new foods and remind them that their tastes may change. Trust your kids to do their job of eating. Give them unpressured exposure to healthy foods and allow them to mature in their eating habits. Most importantly, relax and try to enjoy eating together.

A healthy snack

Spread a whole grain or sprouted grain tortilla thinly with pizza sauce. Sprinkle with finely chopped green bell peppers and two Tbsp part-skim mozzarella cheese. Warm in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave to melt the cheese. Roll up and enjoy whole or cut into pinwheels.

Kristin Brown, a registered dietitian, practices healthy living with her husband and three children.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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