Here's a bulletin from the medical front: Don't yell at little Jason and Jennifer to clean up their plates.
Yes, science has come out in favor of fussy eaters.A study of preschoolers concludes that no matter how birdlike their appetites, children don't need food forced on them. Left to their own devices, they eat enough.
Of course, youngsters should be urged to sample such suspicious-looking stuff as squash and eggplant. And parents must give them healthy foods to pick from.
But beyond that, the advice is simple: Lighten up. Don't worry. The little guy won't starve to death.
"It's the parents' job to supply kids with an array of nutritional foods but the child's job to decide when and how much to eat," said Dr. Leann L. Birch. "Parents should not try to stuff food into their child."
Her study confirmed what every parent knows: Children are finicky. They may find the tuna casserole yummy today but icky tomorrow. One night they wolf down dinner and come back for more and the next they turn up their noses at everything but apple juice.
Children tend to consume about the same amount of calories each day, even though consumption and tastes fluctuate. If a 3-year-old declines to eat anything but three grapes for lunch, chances are good that she cleaned up her cereal at breakfast and will put away a decent dinner.
"This shows that there is a fair amount of variability within children from meal to meal, but over the long term, they do pretty well," said Dr. Johanna Dwyer, a nutritionist at New England Medical Center in Boston.
Birch, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, based her findings on observation of 15 youngsters' eating habits over six days.