[fusion_dropcap]Q:[/fusion_dropcap]My toddler, whom we are raising vegan, has always been a good eater; however, in the last week, all he wants to eat is peanut butter toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can’t get him to eat anything else. Should I be worried about his overall nutritional well-being?
Sincerely, A Concerned Mom
Peanut butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner sounds like a dream menu to me. That being said, I can see why you would be concerned as we all know a nutritionally-packed diet is one rich in all plant foods – not just of the peanut butter and bread variety. Add to it that children are very dependent on nutrients to support their rapid growth & development, and a toddler only eating one particular food should be a red flag for parents. Yet typically, the situation is only worthy of just that – some initial attention by the parents.
Food jags, the term used to describe when children only consume one or two foods for several days or a few weeks, are common. Some kids opt for nothing but applesauce and peas, while others want tater tots and only tater tots. This behavior is an example of the toddler trying to show his/her independence. Children will not starve themselves. They will eat when hungry – and if it just happens to only be PB&J sammiches, it is ok for short periods of time.
There seems to be two schools of thought when dealing with food jags. One recommendation is that parents should not give in to them. You make what you make for meals/snacks, and if the child does not like it, tough luck. The other suggestion is to offer the food jag item along with the regular meal. This is recommended for a number of reasons with the main one being you know your child likes PB&J’s, and by serving it along with the regular meal, it may increase the chance the child will accept the other foods too. I personally side with the latter school of thought.
As a parent, it is important that you do not turn these food jags into a power struggle. Your role as the parent is to provide nutritious food at meal and snack times, while it is up to your child to decide how much to eat. So keep making meals for yourself (and other family members) and offer new foods or even the old reliable items that may have fallen out of favor. I think it is also important to offer foods in a variety of textures and colors that are pleasing visually to the child. Chances are you will have more success offering a plate filled with green, red, & yellow foods than one which is filled with nothing but boring bland blah color scheme (read: white potatoes, cauliflower, and white beans.)
As I said, these food jags tend to pass in a matter of days or a few weeks, so they aren’t typically associated with any long-lasting issues. If they do last longer, it is important to bring the issue up with your pediatrician as the food jag could be an indicator of a more severe aversion related to conditions ranging from Autism to basic motor development.
Ask Anya is a weekly column written by dietitian Anya Todd on vegan health to help educate others on how to live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Anya covers hot topics and commonly asked questions about vegan nutrition. Do you have questions or concerns you would like to see addressed? Simply send Anya an email to [email protected].
Disclaimer: Anya cannot answer any specific questions related to medical conditions, please stick to general questions about diseases, nutrition, or healthy vegan diets.
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