Here we are again, with another article on Best Case Parenting. I feel this one is a big one!
In my professional life, I have heard many parents over the years telling me “my child only eats bread” or something along those lines. It can be a real problem for parents, when they have a child which is pretty much demanding only the few foods they like.
In this article, we hope to offer these parents a light at the end of the tunnel.
So, in short, what can you do if your child only eats bread (or a select few of their favourite foods)? The first step is to switch them from white bread to wholegrain bread. You can also get them involved in the process of making the food they eat. Don’t give into their food whims. You are the adult here and you should be guiding them what to eat (even if it is hard at first).
Before we dive deeper into this topic, I want to give a general piece of advice. Usually, the earlier we start with the tips in this article, the better. An older child will probably already have ingrained habits and will take longer or be harder to change. It is much better if you can bring a child up from a young age appreciating a wider variety of food.
The other thing about this situation, is it may be hard to change your child’s habits. It could be a slow process at first and use up a lot of your time and efforts. In these moments, think of your child’s health. If they are only eating bread, it is likely this will affect their health. This should be one of the main priorities for your child, so it will be worth the potential pain at the beginning!
Why will my child only eat bread?
It can be quite common for young children to gravitate towards foods heavy in carbohydrates. Some studies have suggested that children may enjoy bread in particular as it is safe energy to them. It is sweet and has similar characteristics as breast milk. Often, this is just a phase though, and a child should grow out of this love of bread.
Bread is a simple and somewhat bland food. This can turn into a comfort food for children, who sometimes don’t want to be blasted with lots of different flavours they don’t know!
All in all, bread and carbohydrates in general are common favourites for young children. Go talk to any of your other parent friends and you will probably find a lot of other children that enjoy eating bread. The problem is, you have ended up with a child that only eats bread.
What is the possible impact of only eating bread?
I will start by saying I am not a dietitian and this is in no way professional dietary advice. If you are worried about this issue, seek out a qualified dietitian.
Surprisingly, only eating carbohydrates is not actually as bad as you might think for children. It offers a lot of fuel for your growing child.
However, when you narrow this down to bread, your child will be missing out on other essential nutrients. The over eating of bread is taking up valuable real estate in your child’s stomach, that could be filled with healthier and more nutrient rich alternatives.
The situation is made worse if your child is only eating white bread, which is a more calorific and less nutritious form of bread. It will literally fly through your child’s digestive system with little nutrient value given.
For a growing child, you need to get a wider variety of nutrients in them. Start with more healthy types of bread, and move on from there.
This UK government site has some excellent general advice for healthy eating and children.
How can I encourage my child to eat different food?
Ditch that white bread!
The first step should be to at least move your child from plain white bread, to more wholesome brown and wholegrain bread. Then at least they can eat bread that holds a greater nutritional value.
Whole grain bread is a less processed type of bread, and therefore a healthier form of carbohydrates for starters!
It also starts introducing such things as fibre to your child’s diet, as well as other helpful things such as B vitamins and iron!
Trust me, if you have a bread addicted child, getting them onto brown breads will be a good first step.
In addition to this, make sure you buy fresh bread from a bakery. This is because some factory made bread can come packaged with unwanted preservatives to increase its shelf life. Not the best thing to feed a child often!
Don’t give your child choices
In our modern world, you can buy all types of exotic and pre-made foods in the supermarket. We have access to the widest variety of food the common man has ever had!
The problem with this is it has led to many parents giving their children way too much choice at meal times.
I have seen so many parents flapping around their children at these times. Putting something in front of them, finding out their child doesn’t like it and then making something else they request.
You are teaching your child that they are the “kings and queens” of meal time. That they can demand whatever food they want and it will be served.
In the short term it seems like the easy option to give in to what your child wants to eat, as it will be faster and you will get them eating. However, it will only bring pain in the longer term.
You need to start taking back control of what your child is eating at mealtimes.
You can still offer them choices when it is convenient for you, but only give two clear options. And don’t change these options at your child’s request.
If there is a particular food that your child likes, you can agree to prepare this for a future mealtime. But don’t chop and change your meal plans at the whim of your child.
Stay strong and stay firm. If you give in, you are showing your child that with some nagging they will get what they want.
Explain to your child why they cannot eat only bread and ask them to eat healthier alternatives.
This will be hard for a child that is already used to getting what they want, but stick with the course and you will see improvements. Yes, sometimes they may go hungry, but in the long run they will benefit greatly.
I would start this slowly. Don’t try to go from white bread straight to plates of broccoli, for example!
Start with brown bread, then sandwiches with healthy fillings (or maybe pizza with healthy toppings). Gradually build the healthier food from there.
You can also use bread as a reward at the end of the meal, after your child has eaten the other healthier options successfully.
If, as a result of this new eating plan, your child goes periods of time without eating. Try to offset this slightly by giving them nutritious drinks such as milk.
Make cooking fun!
I usually find that by involving a child in the cooking process, they are more likely to eat the foods they have helped prepare.
You can start by making bread based dishes, and slowly introduce other food types into the mix.
You will be surprised what a picky child might start eating if they were involved in the cooking process. It might not happen straight away, but stick with it!
Model being a healthy eater!
As the parent, you are the child’s number one role model! They will look up to you and want to copy what they see you doing. Because of this, you should show your child that you eat a variety of foods. Talk to them about the benefits of healthy food and why you eat it!
You can tell your child the typical line of “eating healthier food will help you grow up big like me”, to further motivate them to at least try the food.
Let the white bread be gone!!
Thank you for reading our article here at Best Case Parenting. We sincerely hope you will have to worry less about this “my child only eats bread” problem. It may be hard for you to see your child upset or not eating, but stick with it.
The health benefits for your child will be worth there weight in gold!
If you are a parent who has experienced a picky child or a child that will only eat bread, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below. Also, if you have your own ideas for strategies for others to use, that have worked for you.