15 ways to wean your child off junk food

 The selective diet of children is a common problem faced by parents. For example, a child eats all food groups but does not want to try new things. Or he tries new things, but these foods do not become part of his diet.

15 ways to wean your child off junk food

Do you want to finally cook the same thing for the whole family, and not keep a replacement in the refrigerator in case you refuse what everyone eats? Nutritionist Alexandra Sitnova is sure that by consistently applying the methods from the list below, you will not notice how the child begins to eat more varied, and most importantly, healthy food.


1. Give your child a shared meal, even if he eats selectively

When a child eats only a few foods, and everything new is met with loud protest, parents stop offering new things in order to avoid scandals at the table. Such a tactic, although it leads to temporary peace, also leads to a further reduction in the child's diet, because even buckwheat and pasta can get bored every day.


It is important for the child to see what the family is eating and to be able to interact with the food.


Put on an unfamiliar, unloved, or new food every time you eat it yourself. The portion of the new one that you offer should be small, about the size of a pea.No need to offer a whole tomato, a whole cutlet or a slice of cheese - a large portion will scare. A small one is almost invisible and not at all scary.


Do not mix new and familiar. If you decide to hide a crumb cutlet in pasta or buckwheat, the child will notice and refuse the entire meal. Put the new on the edge of the plate, you can use a larger diameter plate or a plate with separators to make it easier for the child to separate the familiar from the new.


2. When suggesting something new, don't insist on a trial.

The phrase "you have to try" or motivation for trying can be used, for example, for children with autism . In healthy children, this is not necessary. It is important, on the contrary, to explain to the child that he should not try and may refuse. This tactic will pay off, if not as quickly as the motivation for the trial, but more consistently.


Some studies have shown that children who were offered a reward for eating a new or unloved food stopped eating the product most of the time when the reward was removed. Perseverance in tests, setting the condition “must try” can lead to refusal from other foods or from the entire meal, because the obligation to try is sometimes associated with negative feelings in a child: disgust, nausea, vomiting.


Use two phrases when suggesting something new: "it's available to eat" + "you don't have to eat everything." “Now I have cooked buckwheat, fish and vegetables. You can choose from this what you want to eat. You don't have to eat everything." This combination works in favor of diversity, but it may take several weeks of regular offers for the first trials.


3. When offering something new, do it regularly.

If a fish appears on a child's plate once a month, then he cannot get used to the smell, the sight and form a desire to try.For children older than 1.5-2 years old to try new things, they may need 20-25 meetings with the product. Provide all these meetings within a month. This means that each new product appears on the child's plate every day or most days of the week.

At the same time, try to ensure that there are no more than 2 new foods on the child’s plate at the same time. If a child eats 4-5 times a day, then 8-10 unusual foods may appear on his plate per day.

4. Portion increase should be very slow

Until the child tries the product, the portion on the plate is always minimal - the size of a pea. After the first sample, keep a tiny portion of the tried product for a few more days, after which you can gradually increase it: up to 2 peas, up to a teaspoon, up to 2 teaspoons. Such a smooth, stepwise increase in the portion of the product helps the child not to be frightened and continue to try both this product and all others.

5. Use the principle of color and texture similarity, suggesting a new

Green peas - green beans - edamame beans. Cucumber - raw zucchini - patisson - raw cauliflower - raw white cabbage. Carrot - sweet potato - pumpkin. Potato - parsnips - banana - white beans. Tomato - red pepper. Rice - bulgur - white buckwheat - barley groats or pearl barley. Buckwheat - quinoa. Apple - pear - quince. Rice - brown rice - millet.

Some kids are more willing to try new things that "sound" like they're used to: crunchy cucumber, crunchy carrots, crunchy apple, crunchy celery. It is easier for a child to try new things if this new thing is similar to the usual one in some way, especially if you tell him about the similarities.

The first new products of the child when expanding the diet may be those that he used to eat, but stopped.They will be familiar, and therefore it will be easier to make a new test.

Some children find it easier to try new things if they don't require chewing. For example, smoothies, puree soup, juice, sauce. But don't try to hide everything new in a soup or smoothie, cook with your child so that he knows what ingredients you use and is ready for a new taste.

Children may like some foods in a certain form: for example, carrots in the form of sticks, and a banana only in porridge. As you expand your child's diet, try different options. Stop if you decide to carve stars out of apples so that the child can somehow taste them.

6. Avoid substitutions

Each substitution reinforces the failure. Getting up and getting "spare" food means that the child determines the family's menu. This enhances its selectivity. When you prepare a replacement, it’s as if you are telling the child: “I will give you the usual food anyway, you just need to refuse.”

If you want to give the child something that he eats and loves, then this dish or product should be offered to the whole family and offered along with the rest of the meal. This will help not to highlight your favorite, not to turn it into a reward.

If the family meal does not involve substitutions, then there is no need to prepare another dish specifically for the child: he can eat something from what is prepared for everyone, or refuse. Refusal to eat is normal, it's not scary. A child can, without any harm to health, refuse one or more meals during the day.

7. Guaranteed food at select meals only

There are two tactics when it comes to familiar and favorite food.First: always offer something new together with a friend. This tactic is suitable for children who eat 20-30 different foods, their diet can be called moderately varied.In this case, if you want your child to eat more foods, you can always offer something new with a friend. This method does not give results quickly, it is one of the softest. It may take 3-6 months for the product to become part of a regular diet.

The second tactic: save for the child 2 meals with familiar and favorite food, and offer the rest not too favorite or unfamiliar. This tactic is applicable if the child eats less than 20 foods, while the family's diet is more varied. In this case, you need to choose the two most important (for you) meals. Usually, parents choose breakfast and a second dinner, which is especially convenient for those children who go to kindergarten and school. At these meals, you offer the usual food for the child plus something new. At other meals, there is no usual food: the child can eat a common dish or refuse. This tactic, although it gives a fairly quick result (many children begin to try new things after 2-3 days), it requires more patience from parents. The child will demand, ask for the usual, and you will need all the strength to refuse,

8. Avoid emotional swings at the table

Ignore your child's aggressive behavior while eating, but comfort him if he cries. The child may protest, throw food, yell at you, demand the usual with tears. It can be difficult for parents to ignore this or remain calm. The more calm the reaction the child receives (“Yes, you can not eat if you don’t want to”), the less intense these manifestations will be. The more comfort the child receives (“I understand that you wanted pasta, we planned it for dinner and soup for lunch”), the sooner the moment of cooperation will come.

When the child has not eaten again (or has not tried again), we are upset. When he tried, we jump to the ceiling. In these conditions, it is more difficult for the child to try, because he has to guess your expectations and reactions. Try it differently: if the child refuses for the hundredth time, pretend that this happened for the first time and say: “Yes, if you don’t want to today, you shouldn’t eat.” If the child has tried it for the first time, pretend that he has always eaten it, and continue the meal without admiration and praise, as a matter of course. The child will see that trying is normal, not trying is also the norm. When it's okay, it's easier to try. When the mood of the parents changes from anger to delight, the child is lost and does not dare to try.

9. Offer the right choice

The question "What do you want?" leads to a poor diet and frustrates you, because the child over and over again names two or three favorite foods or dishes.The question "Do you want A or B?" makes the child's nutrition transparent to you and gives way to diversity. 

When offering a choice, remember that between the beloved and the new, the choice will always be in favor of the beloved. Offer equivalent alternatives. Between vegetable stew and macaroni and cheese, the choice will be in favor of the latter. But between pasta with tuna and pasta with meat, it can be anything. A choice of two equivalent options can also be offered when planning a menu: “Tomorrow will we cook porridge with berries or with a banana?”

10. The supplement is fine. Sometimes there is no additive, and this is also normal.

Refusal to supplement must be objective.

- No more: you cooked 5 cheesecakes for 5 people, one for each.

- You need to cook: to give a supplement, you need to get up to the stove.

- The child has a reaction to a large amount of the product: "when you ate one tangerine, your skin remained healthy, when you ate 5 tangerines, you got a rash."

- This is dessert: "dessert and sweets are a small addition to the meal, we all eat a small piece."


11. Vegetables go ahead

This tactic is used by nutritionists around the world to stimulate interest in vegetables in children.Plates ovegetable, delivered 10 minutes before the main course, according to research, increases the amount of vegetables in the diet of children up to 50%.Even if the child is reluctant to eat vegetables and fruits, this is the best safety food for him. He may not want soup or porridge, but he can always choose a few pieces of fruit or vegetable from a shared plate. Include familiar vegetables and fruits, as well as new ones, in your fruit and vegetable plate. Put both vegetables and fruits together. Use both fresh and cooked vegetables. Put a plate with vegetables and fruits, even if you ordered pizza.

12. Demanding sweet "sweet tooth" is normal

Plan sweets on the menu. I recommend scheduling sweets for meals that take place outside the home, and one of the days at home. Avoid phrases like “you should only eat cookies”, avoid giving sweets for every request. Both options reinforce the demand for sweets .

Reducing sweets in your diet is a gradual process. Use the tactics of gradually reducing the amount of sugar in cereals, dairy products, pastries, drinks. If you added 2 teaspoons of porridge to the porridge, add 1.5. After a week, reduce the amount of sugar to 1 tablespoon, after another week - to half. After 4 weeks, you can completely give up sugar in cereals. Proceed similarly with sweetened dairy: mix sweet and unsweetened dairy, first adding a quarter of unsweetened, then half, then three-quarters, and finally replacing with completely unsweetened. Buy cookies and candy in smaller sizes and in smaller quantities. When a child asks for two candies, it doesn't matter to him - it will be two candies the size of his palm or two candies the size of his finger.

When a child asks for another cookie, it is easier for him to accept a refusal if there are no cookies than if there is a whole bowl of cookies, but he is not given.

13. Let go of the diet mindset

"Mom is losing weight." “I can’t do this, I’m gaining weight from this.” "Where do you eat so much pasta, you will be fat." "Don't become a ballerina, eat only rolls." Such phrases create the prerequisites for a poor diet and refusal to eat.If you decide to reduce your weight, improve your physical shape, then contact a nutritionist who will help you create a menu without prohibitions. If you are concerned about your baby's weight, also see your doctor to see if there is any cause for concern. The formation of a negative body image is one of the causes of eating disorders in adolescence .

14. save time

When you introduce a child to a new one, the main fear is that you spent an hour in the kitchen, and he refused and demanded pasta. The less time you spent preparing a new one, the weaker your inner desire to persuade. It is enough to wash and cut vegetables, as well as fruits. Grain and protein dishes cook faster if they are separate meat and potatoes, rather than a complex casserole with several sauces . Moreover, simple food with individual ingredients is easier to taste than complex dishes (especially if before the smoothie turned out to be meat-flavored, and your favorite strawberry yogurt tasted like carrots).

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