Letting Kids Choose Meals Can Be a Good Way To Let Picky Kids Eat

In Education

Encouraging young children to eat healthily is challenging, especially when getting them to eat anything can be even tougher. Many parents aim to offer nutritious meals to their preschool and elementary-aged kids. However, a common approach may be counterproductive. A national survey found that three out of five parents alter meals if their child dislikes the food served to everyone else.

American diet triggers overconsumption of calories

According to Dr. Susan Woolford, M.D., from the Mott Poll, feeding youngsters poses challenges, given their selective nature and changing tastes. Establishing good eating habits during early years is crucial. However, parental worries about their child’s nutrition might inadvertently hinder efforts to foster healthy eating habits.

A recent national survey, comprising 1,083 parents of kids aged three to 10, highlighted findings from the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. It disclosed that 1 in 8 parents enforce plate cleaning, while 1 in 3 endorse the American diet, with half favoring the Mediterranean one. Despite this, few have integrated more nutritious options at home.

Woolford suggests that parents might identify the typical American diet as comprising significant quantities of saturated fats, supplemented sugars, sodium, and refined carbohydrates. Such a dietary pattern could lead to an overconsumption of calories surpassing nutritional requirements and potentially exacerbating health issues.

Parents should let kids choose meals

Despite acknowledgment and evidence supporting alternative diets for illness prevention, merely 9% have introduced the Mediterranean diet to their children, and even fewer have considered a vegetarian regimen. Intriguingly, 15% enforce finishing plates, over 50% mandate trying every dish, and nearly a third withhold dessert until meals are finished. However, such practices may inadvertently promote overeating, leading to adverse effects.

Requiring children to finish everything on their plate or withholding dessert until they do can lead to overeating, especially if portions are too large. Instead, Woolford suggests “parents provide, child decides,” letting kids choose their meals. Making separate, often unhealthy meals when kids refuse food is common but unnecessary. Providing balanced options, even if a child doesn’t eat, won’t harm them and encourages better eating habits.

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