Santé et Services sociaux Québec.

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Child Dietary Behavior

As they grow older, children adopt different behaviors. Some of these behavioral changes concern diet and are not just passing phases: they are part of a normal transition process. The important thing is to offer your child a variety of foods. One interesting tip is to have your child help prepare meals. They will be tempted to try the dishes they have prepared and will be proud of themselves.

Tips for Stimulating Your Child’s Appetite

  • Begin by creating a relaxing atmosphere just before and during meals. A calm atmosphere is more conducive to appetite.
  • Take the time to sit down while eating and turn the television off to encourage conversation.
  • Don't get into the habit of making another meal when your child refuses to eat the one you fixed: it only encourages capriciousness.
  • Avoid punishing or rewarding your child based on their appetite.
  • Accept sometimes when they refuse, but don’t give in to whims.
  • If your child refuses to eat a specific food, try again to give them the chance to really try it. You may have to use this strategy a number of times before your child gives in and develops a taste for the food.
  • The next time that you make a meal that includes a food that your child refuses to eat, add one that they like. For example, if you child refuses to eat broccoli, serve it with carrots or prepare it with cheese.
  • Make meals attractive by placing foods in ways that make designs or images. Make them colorful with a variety of food.
  • Make mealtime fun with amusing sketches, such as pretending you have a restaurant and the children are your patrons.
  • Have a set schedule for meals to prevent constant nibbling.

Refusing to Eat Meat

Around the ages of 1 to 4 years, your child may refuse to eat meat because of its texture or taste, or because of diminished appetite. Meat, however, is an excellent source of protein, helps keep blood healthy, and promotes growth.

Tips to Encourage Meat Consumption

  • Put ground beef in combination dishes, such as spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, and pâtés.
  • Chicken and fish are meat alternatives; serve them more often.
  • Children prefer tender meat: serve them in smaller servings.
  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) are high in protein and meat alternatives. Add them to soup and casseroles.

Refusing to Drink Milk

Around the ages of 1 to 4 years, your child may show a tendency to refuse to drink milk. Milk, which is high in calcium and vitamin D, helps bones and teeth develop properly and keeps them healthy.

Tips to Encourage Milk Consumption

  • Try to find out why your child refuses to drink milk: taste, temperature, presentation, etc.
  • Serve small quantities of milk in an attractive glass with a straw.
  • Flavor milk with strawberry or chocolate, or make milk shakes. Serve yogurt drinks.
  • Add milk to soups and desserts. Make white sauces and milk desserts.
  • Powdered skim milk can be easily added to many foods, such as cereal, mashed potatoes, homemade muffins, meat loaf, and omelets.
  • Instead of milk, use dairy products like yogurt (125 mL), cheese (1 slice), milk-based soup (175mL), or milk desserts.
  • The two (2) servings of milk, recommended by the Canada's Food Guide, contribute to meet your child's vitamin D needs.

Refusing to Eat Vegetables

Around the age of 3 years, children often refuse to eat vegetables, which are good sources of vitamins A and C as well as dietary fiber. Prefer dark-green and orange vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, string beans, green peas, and zucchini.

Tips to Encourage Vegetable Consumption

  • Begin by offering small servings (a few mouthfuls).
  • Opt for fresh, colored vegetables and place them in an attractive arrangement.
  • Serve raw or crunchy vegetables (not recommended for children under the age of 3 years because of the risk of choking).
  • Serve vegetables with dips made with cheese or plain yogurt. Season according to taste.
  • Children may like vegetable juice and soup.
  • Put cheese on vegetable dishes. Delicious recipe: Put broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and tomatoes in a baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese and then brown.
  • Cook vegetables in broth instead of water to change their flavor.
  • “Hide” vegetables in your child’s favorite dishes, such as spaghetti, soup, and macaroni salad. They may not even be noticed!
  • Involve your child in shopping for and preparing vegetables. Ask them which they prefer and how they like them fixed.