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I have been trying to get my 3 year old daughter to eat what we are serving for dinner rather than make special meals for her. She usually, with much coaxing, will try what we are having, but gags and spits it out. I tell her that this is our meal and she usually goes to bed without eating much. In the morning, she is starving and begging for breakfast. I do try to serve at least one thing she likes at each meal and fit in things she likes throughout the week like spaghetti or Sloppy Joe, but How can I get her to broaden her food horizons wo we can broaden our meal selections? Thanks for your advice on how to handle this.


Trish Booth, MA Replied: Family dinners have two parts, the food and the enjoyable experience of eating together. When you put too much emphasis on eating what is served, the pleasure of being together suffers. Children can create an exhausting, emotional scene if you focus only on eating the food served. Most children go through phases of picky eating. When that happens, it is easy to worry about how much your child eats. However, it is not helpful to limit family dinner to only those foods your daughter likes. Catering solely to her tastes is not in her best interest. You are doing a good job of accommodating her preferences by having one food item she likes at each dinner. Spaghetti and Sloppy Joes have a tomato-based sauce in common. Try serving other dishes that have a similar sauce. You can also make main dishes that have other kinds of sauces. When serving sauce-less main dishes, offer her a dip. This can be plain yogurt, ranch dressing, ketchup, salsa, or anything else she likes. As a rule, children refuse a new food multiple times before they will accept it. So, don't get discouraged when your daughter rejects something new. Keep serving it as often as you and other family members want to have it. Serve your daughter a small bit of it and encourage, but don't force her, to eat it. Because she is hungry at breakfast, you can use that time to introduce new flavors and textures. Often having a child help prepare part of the meal makes the meal more palatable. Try that approach when you have the energy and patience to have her help. As long as you serve healthy foods, your daughter will be eating healthy foods. She won't starve herself. If you want, add a daily multiple vitamin for that reassurance.
Posted On 2006-05-05 19:53:31
Penny Warner Replied: Children at this age are very sensitive to the tastes and textures of foods. You can keep offering her a variety of foods to try, but it may take time before she likes anything new. In the meantime, offer her larger portions of her favorite foods, small portions of the new foods you want her to try, and frequent snacks throughout the day. Children have small appetites (and small tummies) but get hungrey more frequently due to their high energy levels. As she grows and develops, she'll begin to join you in your meals, but for now, I'd be flexible and continue to offer her the foods she likes, perhaps with other foods, such as veggies, mixed in surreptitiously.
Posted On 2006-05-05 18:32:38
Pamela Waterman Replied: First, you are doing all the right things -- take heart! Some children will carry on like this for years (they say it can take 10 trys to decide on liking something), and parenting does require compromise, but you are not a short-order cook. Children will not starve themselves, and they do change; next year, she may start to like a food that she spit out last week. Keep trying the little bits, and the fact that there is always one thing that she likes is a great happy-medium. As my three children got older, I said, "You can always make yourself a peanut-butter sandwich," which got us through a number of meals when I wanted variety and went ahead and tried something new. You can also "beef up" her breakfasts, trying different items that will fill her up then, instead of at night. As long as her doctor says she is doing well, and perhaps you are giving her vitamins, she'll be fine. Yes, it's wearing on you, but don't feel you have to just serve spaghetti fives times a week. You may also be surprised when one day, she asks for what is on your own plate, out of curiosity! PS, try reading her the wonderful picture-book, Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat.
Posted On 2006-05-05 12:16:41
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