My Child Won’t Eat Anything But Junk Food: What Can I Do About It?

You don’t want to be the overbearing parent who demands your kid only to eat healthy all the time, and yet you also don’t want to be that parent who lets their kid get away with eating junk food and nothing but junk food. If your kid only eats junk food, they may end up gaining weight and not understanding their nutritional needs. 

You’ll have so many decisions to make for your child throughout their entire lives. It starts early on when you’re considering different baby names. Then you move on to picking out things like car seats and cribs. But decisions regarding baby names and car seats won’t affect their health the way deciding what foods to feed them does.

Source: Source: flickr.com

Parents are faced with many challenges when it comes to getting a child to eat healthy foods and getting their kid to try new foods. Many kids are very picky eaters right from the very beginning. Others will progress into more picky eating as they get older. And the reasons they do so can be anything from willfulness, to the presence of sensory issues, to they really just don’t like the taste of certain foods, and more. Your job is to work through these challenges and teach your picky eater about healthy eating anyway. Easier said than done? Maybe, but we’re going to help with that.

Why Does It Happen?

You may not know the exact reason why children only want junk food or why they’re such a picky eater. You may assume it’s because they like the taste and dislike the feeling of fruits and veggies. There is a little more to picky eating than you would think, though. 

For one thing, if your child is still very young, junk food is easier for them to eat motor skills-wise. Plus, junk food typically has that nice little crunch to it, while fruits and veggies may have a texture that your kid may not love. Eating solid fruits and vegetables is more of a challenge, but bread, ah, bread. It’s loaded with carbs, which children want, and are biologically programmed to eat. The problem is, we know much more about foods and the way they affect the systems in our bodies, which means we understand more about the importance of fruit and vegetables. Snack time can’t always be just about what the easiest thing to grab is. And many times the easiest thing to grab is something loaded with carbs.

Yes, despite our aversion to carbs, we are programmed to eat them. Our ancestors ate sweet, carb-rich foods because they energized us.

Chances are, your child may outgrow this, and will eventually eat other foods. However, there is always the chance that their junk food craving may get worse. That’s why it’s important to deal with picky eaters early on and in the right way. Picky eating shouldn’t be the determinant of the type of diet your child develops. A picky eater can be picky and still eat healthily.

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Don’t Force Change 

Forcing healthy foods on your child can just make them dislike them even more. This can result in an a more picky eater. It’s essential that you try to keep your cool and not force anything on your child that they don’t want. Instead, make the change come naturally. A picky eater often refuses to eat new foods or healthy food he or she perceives as not tasty. A parent going all dictator on their child because he doesn’t eat something isn’t going to make him want to ever eat it again.

Healthy Foods Should Be Available 

Even though you may believe that buying them is a waste of time, you must purchase healthy food and have it around the house. By showing your child the available healthy foods, they may get an incentive to try them. Too many parents don’t confirm buying healthy meals for their kids, and this can cause a problem.

There should be a variety of foods in your home. When you go grocery shopping with your children, make sure to talk about the different healthy foods you’re buying and how they benefit the body. Show your kids that food nutrition is highly important even when they’re very young. Help your picky eater see why they should choose to try more new foods that might be healthier for them. 

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Eat The Foods

When you buy healthy foods, eat them in front of your child. However, don’t sound too condescending or annoyed should the kid not eat them. Instead, point out their flavor, healthiness, and indirectly invite your child to eat them with you. Picky eaters sometimes just need to know that the choice is theirs.

Kids like to emulate their parents in all types of different ways. Eating is no different. If your picky eater knows that you don’t eat fruits and vegetables, foods that aren’t processed, and the healthy eating isn’t modeled for them, they very likely aren’t going to eat that way either. Your kids will want to eat what the rest of the family is eating eventually, so do yourself a favor and practice what you’re preaching. A picky eater doesn’t have to be an unhealthy eater. Show them how to eat, don’t just talk about it.

Another thing to remember is that what you eat during pregnancy, baby gets too. When you’re pregnant, pregnancy foods should be chosen with care. If all you eat is junk food during pregnancy, baby may be developing a taste for it already in the womb. While your pregnant, pregnancy foods should be selected that have good nutritional value for both you and your baby.

This goes for when you’re breast feeding, as well. Talk to your lactation consultant about what foods you should be eating at meal and snack time since some of what you eat or drink will affect what your baby gets in the breast milk.

Slowly Implement Healthy Food 

One reason why parents fail to switch their kids from junk food to healthy food is the fact that they throw the healthy food on the child too fast. This may have happened to you when you were a kid. Your parents wanted you to eat better, so they immediately told you no more junk food, and only offered healthy food. This made your parents seem to be like the antagonists and made healthy food look bad. This, in fact, may make a picky eater get worse. Picky eaters need a better relationship with food, not have it look unappealing.

Try to avoid lecturing your child about healthy foods and why junk foods are bad. This is going to do nothing but make your kid feel like they’re pressured. Instead, you should avoid any lectures and slowly begin implementing healthier foods. Make sure you continue to offer healthy foods, but let your child be a part of the decision to eat them. Don’t expect a change overnight. 

Instead, it should be a slow process. Serve a bit of healthy food alongside the junk food. Perhaps you can hide it in there. You can also offer picky eaters incentives. For instance, tell them if they eat some of their healthy foods, they can have a bowl of ice cream after dinner. Reward your picky eater when they do what you want them to. Positive reinforcement goes a long way for changing behaviors you’re trying to do away with. 

In the meanwhile, buy less junk food, but still, have it. You can also replace junk food with healthier alternatives. For example, sugar-free versions or versions without any additives are always right. If you pay attention at the grocery store, you’ll see there are healthier alternatives of many of the products you’re already buying. Some people aren’t big on healthy eating because they think it’s too hard to implement, but it’s really not. 

Source: lejeune.marines.mil

Why Not Cook With Your Kid?

Prepare a snack or a meal with your kid. Obviously, your kid is probably not ready to be a big chef yet, but what they can do is help you with the kitchen. If they are old enough, they can turn on the stove, chop foods, or just mix them together. Much of the time, picky eating is more about control than anything else. In that case, cooking with your child helps give them some control. If you’re making new foods, they might be much more inclined to try what they are if they helped in the kitchen when they were being prepared. 

Cooking with your kid is a fun way to bond, and it’s the right way for your child to learn more about the foods they eat. A picky eater who learns more about healthy eating while spending quality time with a parent will likely be more apt to try new foods and start moving away from such picky eating. Try it out and see what a difference it makes in your picky eater.

Or Grow With Your Kid?

If you can grow a garden, this may help your kid learn that eating veggies are awesome. You and your child can plant some vegetables and fruit together, and then wait for them to grow. You can then watch as your creations come to life. Your kid’s eyes will light up as the plants grow into food, and this may excite them to give the fruits and vegetables a chance. Meal and snack time can be a lot more appealing to a picky eater who helped to plant the foods the family is eating. It will mean so much more to your child than simply eating foods bought from the grocery store. As we mentioned before, a picky eater is usually that way for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual foods. So why not give picky eaters more reasons to try foods rather than reasons not to.

Source: pixnio.com

Try To Schedule Snacking

If your kid is snacking endlessly, perhaps it’s time for you to set up a schedule and not have them eat snacks all day. By having them eat less junk food, and scheduling it, you can help your child out quite a bit.

One way you can do so is to space snacking apart by a few hours, and this can allow your child to eat some junk food. Or, you can also offer healthier snack foods at those intervals, like peanut butter on celery sticks or with apple slices. Picky eating doesn’t mean you can’t try to mix it up a little bit. It could be you just need to make new foods more interesting. Ants on a log is fun and often popular with even picky eaters. That’s celery sticks with peanut butter in them topped with raisins (the ants).

Check With Your Doctor 

If all else fails, it may be worth it to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can tell you more about why your child isn’t eating any healthy foods and what you can do about it. There may be a chance that your baby is perfectly healthy and can get away with eating some junk food. With that said, you should eventually wean them off of it, but having confirmation that it’s nothing to worry about is always right. And doctors will be able to help suggest creative ways to get picky eaters trying more foods. They can also help educate you on what healthy alternatives you can offer in place of foods your picky eater just won’t try.

You may find that the struggles you’re having with getting your picky eater to try new foods stem from something that needs special attention. If your child falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, you may need to go about dealing with picky eating in another manner. Kids with autism that are picky eaters often have sensory issues that need to be handled with care. If your picky eater is on the autism spectrum, you should certainly discuss how to introduce a new food with their doctor.

Source: flickr.com

Conclusion

It can be frustrating to have a child who just won’t seem to eat the way you want them to, but remember, their palate is still growing. Raising a kid who is a picky eater on junk food is a problem, but so is forcing them to eat healthily. This may end up giving them an aversion to fruits and vegetables, and they may grow up a long time without realizing just how good they are. 

If a kid gets too addicted and you see significant weight gain, talk to a doctor, and try weaning them off the wrong foods. It can help.

FAQs

How do I get my child to stop eating junk food?
If your child won’t eat anything but junk food, it is probably because that’s all they have been eating ever since. You need to get rid of all the junk foods at home and make sure that no one at home eats them.

What do you feed a child that won’t eat healthy foods?
A child won’t eat anything but junk food if your cupboards are full of them. You should prepare healthy meals in a way that they cannot resist them. Get creative when you introduce new foods. Look on the web to find ways of serving new food to your picky eaters that will ultimately be a hit.

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Why will my child not eat anything?
Kids may refuse to eat after snacking on fries, chips, and other store-bought foods. It is especially true if your child won’t eat anything but junk food.

It may also be that you’re not offering the right kind of healthy food. Just because your child won’t eat one particular new food doesn’t mean he or she won’t eat other new foods. Try mixing it up a bit. Eventually you should run into something your picky eater finds they like. And once they realize some new foods are good, it might get a lot easier to get them to try others. 

Kids also won’t try new foods, sometimes, because they feel they have no control of their situation. Try to find ways of introducing new foods that allows the picky eater to feel he or she does have a say in what’s happening.

What happens if kids don’t eat healthily?
Kids with poor eating habits are more prone to acquiring illnesses than those who eat healthily. They tend to be obese, as well. Try not to let picky eating result in poor health for your child.

How can I stop eating junk food?
Children may stop eating junk food when you give them nutritious and filling meals for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They may also get snacks in between, but they should always be healthy, e.g., fruits and dark chocolate, or peanut butter.

The best way to stop eating junk food is to find new foods that are just as tasty but are healthy alternatives. Food has come a long way. There are virtually healthy alternatives to almost every kind of delicious junk food out there. 

How can I get my nine-year-old to eat better?
The primary thing you can do is avoid giving your 9-year-old kid too many snacks at once. You should also eat as a family to encourage them to join you at the dining table. Model healthy eating for your child whenever possible.

How can I fix my toddler’s eating habits?
You can fix your toddler’s eating habits by setting a dining schedule that everyone in the house must follow. Then, you should know the foods that your kid loves and look for different ways to prepare them. 

Also, don’t allow your toddler to treat you as a short-order cook. You don’t have to make a whole separate kind of meal for your little one because she doesn’t want to eat a new food. When you do this, your teaching your picky eater to be even more picky. Allow her to make the choice to try new foods. Then if she just won’t, she may end up going to bed hungry that night. That’s ok for one night. She will likely decide, eventually, she doesn’t want to go to bed hungry and be more likely to try new foods.

Can a toddler live on milk?
No, a toddler cannot live on milk forever. Despite the nutrients that milk contains, a growing child has other nutritional needs that milk will not be able to provide eventually. Your child should still have the milk, but you need to get them onto new foods, also.

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What are the causes of poor eating habits?
A child may develop poor eating habits when you give them foods that are either too sweet or too salty early in life. The healthy options will be tasteless to them so that they may ask for sugary foods all the time.

What qualifies as junk food?
Junk foods refer to foods that have been manufactured in factories, such as chips, carbonated drinks, chocolates, etc. Burgers, fries, and pizzas can be seen as junk food as well if they have a lot of synthetic ingredients.

Is picky eating a sign of autism?
Yes, picky eating can be a sign of autism. It is especially true if your child only wants to eat the same thing every day. However, you should certainly consult with a doctor regarding whether your child falls on the autism spectrum, or not.

Is it normal for a toddler to not want to eat?
Yes, it is normal for a toddler not to want to eat at all. The reason is that they may not do much throughout the day, so they do not digest food as fast as a newborn. A growth spurt may affect their appetite as well.

Last Updated on July 24, 2020 by Marie Miguel

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