I Let My Kid Eat Junk Food!
"Keep offering healthy foods even if they've turned their noses up at cooked carrots a million times" -- that's the advice Sara DuMond, MD, a pediatrician in Mooresville, North Carolina, gives parents when kids hit the picky-toddler stage. But when her own daughter, Anna, started refusing foods at age 2, Dr. DuMond found herself stuck between the hardwired instinct to feed a child no matter what and the mealtime meltdown only a hungry toddler can deliver. She lost the battle. "One day I woke up to find that I had a child who was basically subsisting on chicken nuggets, Goldfish crackers, Ritz Bits, and chocolate-chip granola bars."
In order to develop good eating habits for the long haul, kids need to learn to eat what you're eating. That means offering healthy foods but not forcing them, not using food as a bribe or a reward, and not picking a fight or fixing something else when kids don't eat what you're serving. Talk about a tall order!
Dr. DuMond has slowly improved Anna's eating habits by involving her in grocery shopping and by offering her some control at mealtime. "She's 4 now, so it's reasonable for her to pick between broccoli and green beans," Dr. DuMond says. "If I'm offering a new food or one she's refused before, I make sure there's at least one go-to food on her plate that I know she'll eat." When nothing appeases Anna, "we politely let her know it's her choice of whether or not to eat dinner."