What is a Food Jag and how can you fix it?

Ever wonder why your toddler wants to eat the same food day in and day out? You might be stuck in the midst of a food jag. Find out what a food jag is, and how you can fix it.

A food jag has the following characteristics:

  • Your child only wants to eat a certain food prepared in the same way. {Think toast, toast, and only toast.}
  • The request for that specific food happens on a daily basis, even several times each day. {Toast for breakfast, lunch, and supper.}
  • Other foods may be blatantly refused, thrown, shoved onto the floor, or your child may dramatically throw themselves on the floor in a beautiful display of “passion” AKA a tantrum.
  • Eventually your little one tires of the food and then refuses to eat it for an extended period of time. {Toast… YUCK! I can’t believe you thought I would eat THAT!}

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may be in the midst of a food jag.

Why do food jags happen?

Food jags are often synonymous with your little one’s budding personality and growing desire to be more independent.

Let me put it this way… do you have a child that is between 14-18 months or older?

If yes, you’re likely seeing a whole new side of your toddler. They no longer sit still in a high chair, or sit still anywhere for that fact. They now seem to love the word “NO” unless you are the one saying it. And they love to test boundaries…. like ALL the boundaries!

Why? Because at this stage in their development, your toddler is trying to establish himself or herself as a separate entity from you. The desire to prove independence and autonomy allows your toddler to develop feelings and opinions of their own, many of which conflict directly with yours. Learn more about your little one’s developing self-awareness.

Does this mean once my toddler gets in a food jag we’re stuck here?

No! Not in the least, but you are going to need to consider making a few changes.

One of the main reasons a food jag can develop is…..

You may not be following the rule of rotation!

Quote laid over an image of a child thinking: One of the main reasons a food jag can develop is you may not be following the rule of rotation.

Just as it sounds, the Rule of Rotation means to:

  • avoid serving the same food more than one time in a day.
  • try not to serve the same food two days in a row (if possible).

Other things that can help avoid food jags

Think micro-changes. Most parents get overwhelmed when they think about serving their child something new every meal. It doesn’t have to be that complicated!

Micro-changes are teeny tiny ways you can change what your child already loves to eat to make that specific food look or feel new.

Simple micro-changes, for example, can be:

  • Cutting a food in a different way. Diagonal versus horizontal. Square versus triangle. Large chunks versus small.
  • Adding a new dip or sauce on the side as an option.

Don’t be a short-order cook. Toddlers only learn to eat what everyone else is eating when it’s asked of them. Stop offering specific “kid food” just for your toddler and start thinking about how you can adapt what you’re cooking for the whole family to suit their needs.
Have no idea where to start? It’s OK, I can help!

Keep familiar foods and add a few new ones too. The best way to help your toddler transition from “kid food” to family food is by always serving at least one food they already love with the family meal.

One tip to make this work:

  • Make sure everyone at the table gets offered the same food. If your little one loves Ritz crackers, be sure that everyone can grab a handful if they so choose. This helps get rid of the idea that “kid food” still exists.

Get them in the kitchen. Kids in the kitchen definitely is not for the faint at heart, but with a little planning it is totally doable! Toddlers are more than capable of washing veggies or fruit in the sink. Shucking corn, ripping lettuce, picking grapes off a vine, and the list goes on and on.

Helping with food prep doesn’t guarantee they will eat the food once it gets on the table, but it does help inch them towards being more comfortable around the food which WILL eventually encourage them to eat it.

When the best intentions sabotage. When food jags are in full swing, food refusals become a norm.
Your little one leaving the table hungry doesn’t sit well with you. So what do you do? Either run back to the pantry to find something they will actually eat (a guaranteed win) or you compensate by offering extra snacks, milk or juice between meals to “hold them over.”

Great intentions, but let me ask you this “what behaviour are your reinforcing?”

In tough meal times, it’s good to remember you really have no control over what your toddler chooses to eat.

If you’ve just realized you might be making matters worse by offering preferred foods when your little one refuses other foods, one quick fix to this to make sure you always offer at least one food they love to eat with each meal.

Allow them to eat as much or as little of this preferred food. If they want to leave the table after a few bites, you’re going to want to read this to learn how to react.

Now that you know what exactly a food jag is and have a few strategies to deal with it, I’d love to hear your plan to tackle your litte food-jagger!

Still have questions? I would love to hear what’s on your mind!

~L

Leave a comment