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My 5-Year-Old Does Not Eat

author image Brenda Scottsdale
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.
My 5-Year-Old Does Not Eat
A five year old refusing to eat the food his mother is giving him. Photo Credit Dejan Ristovski/iStock/Getty Images

By the time a child is 5 years old, he should be regularly be eating a well-balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat and grains. Five-year-olds can sometimes be finicky eaters, refusing to eat certain healthy foods while preferring to eat junk food. Other common eating problems in children include eating slowly, becoming easily distracted and asking for the same food repeatedly.

Nutritional Requirements

Although the amount of food she eats every day will vary, there are minimal nutritional requirements for your 5-year-old. According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services, your 5-year-old should be eating between three and four servings of milk or dairy products. A serving is 1/2 to 3/4 cups. Two to four servings of meat -- between 2 and 4 tablespoons -- should be consumed. Four to five servings of fruits and vegetables also must be part of the menu. A serving is 3 to 4 tablespoons. Three to four servings of grains round out your child’s nutritional requirements. An example of a serving of grain is one slice of bread or 1/2 cups of cereal.

Teach About Nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has revised the food pyramid to teach parents and children good nutritional habits. Sometimes a 5-year-old who is refusing to eat can be persuaded to do so if given information about why you are asking her to eat certain foods. The pyramid concept has been replaced with a plate with different food groups, represented by different colors. Orange represents grains; green represents vegetables; red represents fruits; blue represents dairy; purple represents meat; and yellow represents oils. Each slice on the pate is proportional to the amount of each food group your 5-year-old should be eating.

Set a Good Example

Sometimes modeling good behavior for your 5-year-old is more effective than lecturing. Set a good example regarding what you eat, allowing your preschooler to mimic you. If your preschooler is reluctant to try new foods, for example, try these foods yourself first, saying how interesting or tasty they are. If you are trying to get him to eat some of everything on his plate, do so yourself. Fruits and vegetables should be a major part of your diet if you want these to be a major part of his diet. Eat with your child so he can see your good habits. Pack extra fruits and vegetables for yourself if you want him to eat these items that you have packed for him. Cook with your child to teach him how eating healthy can be fun and easy.

Offer Multiple Choices

Offering several choices within one food group encourages your 5-year-old to eat a well-balanced diet, while respecting her taste preferences. Offer small portions of a variety of foods, encouraging children to try two spoonfuls of each. While 4 ounces of juice is optimal, too much fills up a child with sugary calories, so try cutting back if she’s not hungry at mealtimes. Choose fat-free dairy products to reduce fat while offering dairy. Stock your cupboards with low-fat, low-sodium and low-sugar healthy foods rather than over processed foods high in empty calories.

Make Mealtime Pleasant

Set the stage for healthy, relaxed meals that will encourage your preschooler to eat by maintaining a regular meal and snack schedule. Share positive conversation during meals to make this activity pleasant. Turn off the television to eliminate this distraction. Let your 5-year-old feed himself with a spoon and praise him for being mature. Offer many smaller meals -- between five to six times every day. Try new foods multiple times, encouraging your child to try them at least eight to 10 times.

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