Most common problems (1-4 years)

Grandparents and usual Carers

The lack of time for cooking, women´s entry into the labour market and the small amount of time that parents spend with their children are factors that directly influence eating during childhood.

Very often grandparents and others carers are those responsible for feeding the children. However, these older people are more used to times of need when foods with a high energy and calorific value were more highly valued, they frequently offer greater quantities of food than the children really need.

They don´t usually follow food guidelines set by the parents and they are often not so strict with eating and table manners.

Vegetable Phobia

There are sometimes quite a few children at this age who avoid eating vegetables. As we know, vegetables are a very important source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

The preferences that they are going to have for different foods, above all, vegetables, will be influenced in part by the foods eaten by the mother during pregnancy, as well as during breastfeeding, the atmosphere in which the food is prepared will have an influence, the non-compulsory introduction of new foods, encouragement by the rest of the family and the setting of rules about eating and table manners. To favour the eating of vegetables, they should at first be introduced in smaller amounts which can be progressively increased.


This term defines the fear or rejection of trying new foods.

Parents often give up quite easily when introducing new foods and children refuse to accept them readily.

Some children may react negatively to a food which has already been tried (as occurs with children who “eat badly”) and sometimes they may alternate this behaviour with neophobia.


What Can be Done in these Cases?

The family has a very important role to play in improving this behaviour.

  • Vegetables or other new foods should be repeatedly served, setting a good example and associating them with happy times at the table with the family.
  • A quiet chat with the grandparents of the usual carers to improve the range of foods offered to the children.
  • An explanation of the benefits of healthy eating, if necessary with the help of a professional, should be enough to improve their understanding.
  • As regards the refusal of new foods, it is known that the more often new foods are presented, the greater the possibility that they will be tried and that they will become accustomed to them. It may sometimes be necessary to try a new food 10-15 times before they begin to enjoy it. The first attempts should be at the beginning of a meal, when they are most hungry. It´s also recommended that the foods should be prepared in different ways and served differently until they become accustomed to the new flavours. They should not be forced to eat large quantities of these foods, but they should be praised them for eating small amounts. Another option would be to present the foods in a more attractive way, making pictures for example, of faces, or cutting the vegetables differently, and using different colours and shapes. It is also recommended that the children help with the preparation of foods, where possible, or even grow the vegetables in the garden or in pots, which may encourage them to try new vegetables.
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