Our grandparents already know the answer and many of you may have heard it.
They say things like, “He’ll eat when he’s hungry,” but we may not want to heed this
advice. In today’s world, and especially in the United States, we have restaurant and fast-
food meals of gigantic portions and consider this the norm. Food is so readily available
and easy to acquire that we believe there is no reason a child shouldn’t eat well. And
with all the choices, surely if the kid won’t eat his green beans, we can find an alternative
he’ll be happy with, right? Wrong.

This kind of thinking will get us nowhere. In fact, these patterns are what results
in very picky eaters who overall suffer from a lack of proper nutrition despite living in the
land of plenty. Sure, a multivitamin each day makes you feel good, but it does not
substitute for proper nutrition.

What can we do about it? How can I make my child a better eater? Brace
yourself. The answer is tough love. “He’ll eat when he’s hungry,” is excellent advice.
There are a few hard and fast rules that, if followed consistently over time, will produce
well-rounded eaters with balanced diets.

The first of these rules is, do not let milk take the place of meals. Toddlers and
young children should consume no more than 16-20 ounces of milk each day. More, in
this case, is not better. Other than the milk, children should drink almost exclusively
water unless otherwise directed by a healthcare provider. Notice that there was no of
mention of juice. That is because if a child eats a proper diet, juice has no nutritional
value. In fact, it leads to more problems with dental decay, diarrhea, and decrease in
appetite for nutritionally valuable foods.

Second, a child should never dictate the menu for the family or for themselves.
This is the biggest factor leading to pickiness. If a child finds that refusal to eat what is
placed in front of them leads to other choices, then of course they will refuse. And again,
and again, and…until they eat only chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
A well-balanced meal should be served to the child. If the child decides not to eat
it, then they should be excused from the table or placed in a safe area (for toddlers) until
the family has finished the meal. If they decide to eat only one or two of the things
served on the plate, fine. When the meal is over, the child’s uneaten food should be
stored in the refrigerator until such time he requests food or shows signs of hunger. Then
once again, the food (reheated) should be offered again. This should be the order of
business for each and every meal. No snacks should be provided until they begin to

Many will think, “No, I can’t starve my child” or “He’ll get cranky and tired.”
Yes, the child will get cranky and fussy, probably tired and weaker, but rest assured, no
child can starve himself. Make sure plenty of water is available (we don’t want anything
close to dehydration) and allow the 16-20 ounces of milk each day, but don’t wander
from this guide. After the child suffers enough, he’ll eat what’s offered. Again, if he
only wants some of what’s offered, that’s okay. Just don’t under any circumstances make
the child something different then what has been planned for the rest of the family. And
remember, toddler’s and young children require very small amounts to have optimal
growth. Don’t expect them to eats gobs of everything because you will be very

Gradually, over weeks and months, this strategy will work. But parents must
commit to it and realized that it will take a sustained effort and that they are providing
the child with something valuable that will serve him his entire life. It always works, but
consistency is the key. Now everyone has a few foods they don’t care for, but what will
come from this approach is a properly nourished child with a well-balanced and varied
diet. Our grandparents are right when they say, “He’ll eat when he’s hungry.”

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