I worry about my child getting enough calories. He seems to be living off
ketchup and air.
Odd eating habits and skipping meals are a normal part of childhood. Studies
show children will consume the amount of nutrients they need – not
every day or even every other day – but over a week. Your job is
to make healthy foods available, and relax. Here are some tips:
No pleading. Instead, offer a variety of wholesome foods and then leave your child alone.
If he wants three servings of pineapple and no chicken, take it in stride.
If he chooses not to eat at all one night, remain calm. Skipping meals
is not unusual.
Let your child be a creature of habit. Peanut butter again!? Eating the same foods over and over again is normal—just
make sure it’s healthy. If peanut butter sandwiches are all he will
eat, use whole wheat bread and peanut butter without hydrogenated oil.
Set some rules, then don’t negotiate. Your rules should include: what, if anything, can be eaten between meals,
and whether the meal being served is the only option. For instance, if
your dinner is rejected, will you offer a standard alternative, like a
sandwich? Once you’ve set the rules, stick with them, even when
faced with whining or tantrums.
When should you worry? If your child is losing weight, has abdominal pain,
diarrhea or if there are no breaks in chronic under-eating for several
weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. Keeping a food diary—noting
what your child eats and any stool changes or stomach pain—will
help your pediatrician identify the problem.
Lauren Choi, DO, an
experienced board-certified pediatrician with
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group, is also the mother of 13-year-old twin girls and a teenage son. “I
want parents to feel comfortable asking any question – and asking
it more than once,” she explains. “Parenting isn’t easy.
If I've done my job of building a strong and trusting relationship,
parents will see me as their partner in raising healthy, happy children.”
Looking for ways to get your picky eater to try new foods? Try these
Four Foods on a Stick to Make Mealtime Fun for Your Kids.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.