As children grow and experience new foods, child care providers may notice changes in eating habits or attitudes about certain foods. The following are important tips for child care providers to prevent unhealthy attitudes about food.
- Accept different levels of food intake. Never force a child to eat. It is normal for children to eat a lot one day and almost nothing the next. If you offer choices from each of the food groups every day, children will adjust and eat appropriate amounts over several days. Deciding how much to eat at a given meal or snack is the child’s job. Your job is to serve a variety of nutritious, tasty foods.
- Know that food jags are normal. Preschoolers are especially likely to insist on eating the same food every day. Continue offering a variety of foods even if a child eats only one thing. With time and patience, children will start to eat a wider variety of foods.
- Expect some waste. It is good for children to naturally stop eating when they are full. Serving child-size portions will help cut down on leftover food.
- Avoid bribing or rewarding children for trying new foods. These techniques make children believe that new foods are undesirable.
- Never use food as a punishment or reward. Withholding food can make children anxious that they will not get enough food, thus causing overeating. Using foods like sweets or special treats as a reward teaches children that some foods are better or more valuable than others.
- Respect and value cultural eating differences. Introduce children to foods from different cultures. Encourage children and families to share stories about their various cultures.
For More Information
To learn more about supporting and promoting healthy eating in a child care setting, check out the following articles:
- Guidelines for Choosing Nutritious Foods for Children in Child Care
- Helping Children in Child Care Learn Healthy Eating Habits
- Make Mealtimes in Child Care Pleasant, Easy and Appealing
- Take Time to Savor Meals and Snacks in Child Care
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