The years following toddler hood are like a quiet after the storm. Kids tend to be more settled, eating likes and dislikes are fairly well established, growth is gradual and slow, and you, as a parent, finally relax, knowing that pretty much no matter what, your child will do fine despite the anxieties you have over what he eats, or doesn't eat.
It's not a time to relax however. Eating habits that last a lifetime can take firm hold now. It is a critical time to make sure the food you bring into your home and the foods you offer at mealtimes are wholesome and delicious. The example you set, plus the nutrition knowledge you have are important factors in kids' food choices.
When you incorporate your nutrition knowledge into meal planning, kids develop a positive attitude towards the foods they are eating. More than ever you are the role model. The foods you prefer and eat on a regular basis have a definite impact on your child's preferences. Face it -- they're at the age to notice whether or not you practice what you preach. If milk is so important, why do you drink a diet soda? In a study of parents and kids, there was a positive correlation between parent and child intake of calories, carbohydrates and fats. Remember that next time you go for the third cookie and pass on the apple.
In another study it was found that kids eat better when they have company at meals. Thinner children and their mothers talk more with each other and eat less, more slowly than fatter children and their moms. What a good reason to have family meals with lots of lively conversation!
As with toddlers, removing food contingencies (e.g. "Clear your plate if you want dessert.") relieves the pressure to eat unwanted food, or to eat when you're full and so they eat less food. Keep alive a child's innate ability to recognize hunger and satiation and their ability to act on it. Children are great self-regulators when it comes to calorie intake. In a study by Dr. Leann Birch, 95 percent of kids who had a calorically dense morning snack ate less lunch than after they ate a low calorie snack. Only 60 percent of adults did! Don't make your kids a member of the clean plate club if they don't want to be.