My son would only eat Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches for lunch. He did this for a better part of two years! I didn’t worry too much as he was healthy and growing but I worried about his inability to to try new foods or seek out different lunches. I ran into another Mom and she let me know her child really only wanted to eat orange foods! She was worried about his health as he was tired and moody all the time.
How can I tell if my child is on a food jag? My son was definitely on a food jag, only eating one food item lunch after lunch. He had a strong fear of new foods and refused to eat what is served if it was a different food that what was on his list of foods to eat. Sally, my friend, said her child would only eat orange foods however this just started for her son.
After talking with our nutritionist, she said to focus on how to help the child expand without decreasing their autonomy and getting into a power struggle. She also let us know that if we let this continue, our sons may eat themselves into a corner and have a very limited and unhealthy diet. Here were two paths to consider: First, seek out a nutritionist with food therapy training. This nutritionist will help introduce new foods to your child and help you relate to your child in a healthier way if needed; or start to change what you offer if needed. Check out the following potential solutions and see where you are with your approach.
- Offer your child their Jag food (as long as it has some healthiness to it) and surround it with more healthy foods or if the jag food is healthy, offer a variety of other types of foods. In the case of the P&J sandwich, offer carrots, raw snap peas, berries or apples, a glass of milk and perhaps some cucumbers with dip. In the case of Orange only, begin to offer orange healthy options like oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, yogurt with orange fruit, white fish with orange sauce, etc.
- To help reduce the common fear of new foods, simply offer a new item at each meal. Don’t force or humiliate your child into it, but ask kindly allow your child to experiment with the food. Better yet, have your child decide on a new food that he or she would like to introduce to the family. Have them tell the other family members about the food and you can all try the food together. The rule is to test and not require anyone to actually continue eating it. It’s a taste test! and everyone must be brave enough to try it.
- Refusal to try new foods or even what is served is extremely common and might be a sign of a power struggle or simply they are not hungry. Don’t force your child to eat and there isn’t a need to prepare a new meal. Let the child know they can help plan and prepare the next meal but you would like them to still stay at the table and chat with the family. Sometimes they will start to nibble or even eat the meal and others they may just wiggle around and not eat. Not to worry – they can eat at the next meal.
Food Jags aren’t a big concern in the short-term and the key is to not create a power struggle or acknowledge it too much so that it doesn’t become a long term habit. Meanwhile, if you are concerned or see unhealthy signs, talk with your pediatrician, nutritionist or a child psychologist to help guide you through the process.