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Healthy Nutrition for Children - Avoid Food Battles


Don't Push Child to Eat

In many homes, getting children to eat healthy food is a source of conflict, and parents find themselves in a power struggle, often bargaining with or bribing their kids. You are responsible as a parent is to prepare and serve a nutritious snack or meal and to limit the kind of foods available at home.

Leave it to your children to decide whether to eat and how much food to eat. Let them decide what they will eat from the foods you serve and when they are full.

You may find the following guidelines helpful: 

  • Establish a predictable routine for meals and snacks. Everyone in the family likes to know what to expect. 
  • Don't push your kids to clean their plates. Let your children know that it is acceptable to stop eating when they feel full. 
  • Don't bribe your children with food. Avoid using dessert as a reward for eating the meal. This creates the impression that sweets are more valuable than mealtime food. 
  • Food is not love! Find better ways to say, "I love you," with hugs, affection, praise, and some of your time. 
  • Serve smaller portions, especially if your children leave large portions of uneaten food. Small portions are less overwhelming for a child, while bigger portions may encourage overeating.
  • It is not harmful if your children choose to eat just a little or skip a meal. They will not starve, and they will learn to be more flexible rather than go hungry. Present a variety of healthy foods at snack and mealtime. Your children may surprise you one day by eating most of them.

By Michael Bihari, MD 
Board of Directors, Community Health Center of Cape Cod, Falmouth Public Schools Health Advisory Committee, Falmouth Prevention Partnership Steering Committee

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