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Eating and Nutrition

After the first few years of life, your child will start to settle into certain likes and dislikes when it comes to food, but eating habits between ages four and seven are constantly changing. They may carrots one day and then respond with "eewwww!" the next. This is a good time to make sure that you have a houseful of wholesome foods, and that your own eating habits reflect the habits you want your children to imitate. If you eat fast food, chips and sugary snacks, and wash it all down with a gallon of diet pop every day, your child will do the same, regardless of how many times you tell them to eat their vegetables.

This is also the age where parents make the common mistake of saying something to the effect of "clean your plate, there are starving kids in Africa." The fact is, your child knows his own body, and knows when he is full. The amount of food you put on her plate isn't necessarily the amount that she needs to eat. In fact, when a child sees a portion of food that is exceptionally large, it tends to be a discouraging experience from the start. Start out with small servings, they can always get more if they're still hungry. Children at this age probably need fewer calories than most s believe, which sets up a situation where parents attempt to force children to eat more than their bodies really need. The result is either a fat child, or one who resents mealtime completely. Instead of promoting "more, more, more," try instead to just provide a good variety of healthy foods.

Of course, during this time you will notice that your child is probably a "picky" eater. Children at this age may have unusual eating habits, and for the most part they are harmless. They do tend to like simpler dishes and do not like foods with strong flavors. They don't like foods to be mixed. Avoid criticizing these behaviors and preferences, while still setting limits and expressing your expectations. Besides the three basic meals a day, an after school snack is also appropriate.

Using food as a reward is very common, but unhealthy. A nutritious and tasty dessert is just part of the meal, not a reward; using dessert as a reward may encourage a child to eat more than they need to just to get the reward.

--Contributed By Mariah N--