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He refuses to eat what serve...

Hi Mark,

I am enjoying reading your book and up to assignment 2.

I apologize for being upfront and I am hoping you don't mind me asking you for advice.

I have a wonderful 14-year-old son who is giving us a bit of grief at the moment. His attitude basically is we are all his servants and he basically yells at us. Very hard to actually sit down and have a conversation.

We always sit down for evening meal but R___ just about refuses to eat what serve. He wont suggest in the morning what he would like but is happy to complain and whine. This is the same as his school lunch.

I thought today I have had enough and refuse to make his lunch and will offer dinner knowing very well he won’t want it. R___ would sooner starve than actually cook something for himself.

What do you think is going on here? What is the best way to handle this situation? I know it sounds petty. I don't want to waste any more effort on making a situation worse.

Appreciate your time,



Hi J.,

You’re definitely not alone. Children's nutrition is a sore topic in many households. Many parents are distressed by what their children eat — or don't eat. However, most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. So don’t become alarmed. Until your child's food preferences mature, prevent mealtime battles one bite at a time. Here’s how:

1. Be patient with new foods. Children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before he takes the first bite.

2. Be sneaky. Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.

3. Boycott the clean plate club. Don't force your child to clean his plate. This may only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. Instead, allow your child to stop eating when he is full.

4. Don't expect too much. After age 2, slower growth often reduces a child's appetite. A few bites may be all it takes for your child to feel full.

5. Don't offer dessert as a reward. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child's desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week. Or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.

6. Eat breakfast for dinner. Who says cereal or pancakes are only for breakfast? The distinction between breakfast, lunch and dinner foods may be lost on your child.

7. Expect some food preferences to stick. As kids mature, they tend to become less picky about food. Still, everyone has food preferences. Don't expect your child to like everything.

8. Keep an eye on the clock. Nix juice and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he may be more motivated to eat.

9. Keep it separate. If your child isn't a fan of various ingredients thrown together, you might "unmix" the food. Place sandwich fixings outside the bread, or serve the ingredients of a salad, casserole or stir-fry separately.

10. Know when to seek help. If your child is energetic and growing -- he is probably doing fine. Consult your child's doctor if you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development or if certain foods seem to make your child ill.

11. Leave taste out of it. Talk about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.

12. Limit liquid calories. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products and 100 percent fruit juice can be important parts of a healthy diet — but if your child fills up on milk or juice, he or she may have no room for meals or snacks.

13. Make it fun. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters.

14. Minimize distractions. Turn off the television during meals, and don't allow books or toys at the table.

15. Recruit your child's help. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.

16. Respect your child's hunger — or lack thereof. Children tend to eat only when they're hungry. If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack.

17. Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.

18. Start small. Offer several foods in small portions. Let your child choose what he eats.

19. Stay calm. If your child senses that you're unhappy with his eating habits, it may become a battle of wills. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle.

20. Stick to the routine. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If the kitchen is closed at other times, your child may be more likely to eat what's served for meals and snacks.

Your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight. But the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.

Good luck,


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