Expert Q&A

Food jags: Is there a health risk?

This past week, my three-year old son is going through a weird phase where he won't eat any meat. All he wants is cereal or cheese and crackers.  I give him a vitamin every day and I know he won't starve to death, but should I be worried?

-Olga from Minnesota

It sounds like your son is experiencing a food jag.  Very common in toddlers, food jags are nothing to worry about. It is important to understand, however, what is going on and how to handle it.  A food jags is when a child will only eat one or a few food items, meal after meal, day after day.  As difficult as this can be for a parent, it marks a normal developmental milestone—demonstration of independence.  Your son is likely refusing foods and insisting on eating others just to see what happens.  Insisting on one food does not necessarily mean he only likes that food, just as rejecting a food does always mean he doesn't like it. 

The best way for you to handle your son's food jags is to remain low-key and not draw attention to the behavior. Your son will not become malnourished from eating only cheese and crackers for a week.  However, the more focus the food jag receives, the longer it may last.  Therefore, continue to offer different foods along with his cheese and crackers and then step back and allow him to be in control of what he eats.  This too shall pass. 

For further information on kids and improving their eating habits see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Coping and Compromising With Kids that Are Picky Eaters and Encouraging Normal Eating in Toddlers.

Erica Lesperance, RD, LD
Contributing Expert

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