A Family Meal the Beginning of Child's Good Food Habits

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Family Meal the Beginning of Child's Good Food Habits


Byline: BIRTH TO THREE by Carolyn Raab For The Register-Guard

`I'm not going to eat that." Mealtime struggles can be common as preschoolers learn to feed themselves. What should parents do?

Child feeding isn't just a parental responsibility. Children have a role, too, says Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian, family therapist and author. Parents decide what, when and where, she says. Children decide how much.

Parents decide what food is offered to the child.

Include a variety of nutritious foods in your child's meals and snacks If possible, involve your child in making choices. Encourage him to taste unfamiliar foods. Young children learn by observing. Parents can set a good example by eating foods that are served.

Parents decide when foods are served to the child.

Try to schedule meals and snacks at regular times every day. That makes it easier for your child to decide how much to eat. Offer snacks 2 to 3 hours before meals so that she will be hungry at mealtime.

Parents decide where the food will be eaten.

Explore ways to adjust individual schedules to allow time to eat a meal together and find a place - this could be a blanket on the floor if a table isn't available. Turn off the television so you can talk and listen to each other. Start by putting at least one family meal a week on your calendar. Serve take-out food if that's a time saver. The important thing is eating together and sharing conversation.

Children decide how much to eat.

Trust young children to follow their inner cues and eat the amount of food that their bodies need. When given nutritious food choices, preschoolers appear to be able to balance what they eat with their energy needs. Good eaters can stop when they're full. On days when children aren't as hungry, excuse them from the meal. Don't force them to eat everything on their plate. Offer small servings and then give second helpings if they'd like more.

These serving sizes are appropriate for 4- to 5-year-olds:

Breads and cereals (6 servings each day): 1/2 to 1 slice of bread; 1/4- 1/2 cup rice or pasta; 1/2 cup breakfast cereal

Vegetables (3 servings each day): 4 to 5 tablespoons of cooked vegetable; 1/2 cup raw leafy greens; 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable juice

Fruits (2 servings each day): 1/2 to 1 medium whole fruit; 4 to 5 tablespoons chopped fruit; 1/3 to 1/2 cup fruit juice

Milk products (2 servings each day): 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk or yogurt; one-inch cube of cheese

Meat and other proteins (2 servings each day): 4 tablespoons cooked meat, poultry or fish; 1/2 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut butter

When children eat a healthful diet, they may occasionally have small servings of less nutritious foods such as chips, cookies or soft drinks. …

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