Preschoolers & Food Jags

What is a "food jag?"

It is a behavior where a child purposely chooses to eat the same food over and over again , rejecting other foods. For example, they may choose only rice or only grilled cheese sandwiches and will reject everything else.

There is no set time for how long a food jag can last. Most importantly, parents should know that it is a normal behavior for young children 2-5 years of age to exhibit diminished appetite and picky/fussy eating behaviours, including showing preferences and dislikes for certain foods. No need to be concerned as long as the child is growing normally. If you are concerned, use growth charts and plot your child’s weight.

What can you do if you have a child with a food jag or who is a picky eater?

  • Offer a variety of nutritious foods, including ones they don’t like. It can take 15 positive exposures to a new food before they might try it
  • Have scheduled meal and snack times. Try not to offer food between these times or you may reduce their appetite. This includes milk and juice
  • Provide smaller more frequent meals. Children have small stomachs. They can get full quickly and hungry sooner.
  • Model healthy eating yourself
  • Remove distractions such as TV, toys and electronics

Ineffective strategies include pressuring a child to eat certain foods, preparing separate meals if they don’t like what is offered and rewarding children for trying new foods.

Remember the division of responsibility. It is your job as a parent to offer a variety of nutritious foods at regular intervals. It is up to the child to determine what or if they will eat and how much. You can’t force a child to eat.

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