I think the first thing to do is to start from a very young age (at weaning) with a healthy diet. I am just adding this - though I am sure most MDC mums provide great well balanced nutritional meals in their homes! lol But I am also adding this because if my son doesnt want what I give him...but would just as happily eat a biscuit or crisps instead...then thats a no go. I am fine with my son having foods like these as long as we eat healthy first. This hasnt been an issue until recently (new found independence etc) so I will simply tell him that 'we eat our healthy foods first'. He is fine with that. Though I have been very lucky to have a son who doesnt have eating issues. We just do love our food in this house though! lol
The second thing is...I will never say 'Eat this or
...'...we dont punish in our house and that sounds like a punishment. I also dont want to create eating issues. How many of us eat when we are depressed or dont feel like eating when we are sad? I dont think thats normal - and looking back through my childhood (being sent to bed without any food, etc) I can see why I feel the way I do towards food in regard to how I am feeling. I do not want that for my son. I dont want to cause him to overeat 'eat 5 more and then you can...' or under eat 'go to bed without anything to eat then!', etc) Food is enjoyable yes...but its basic purpose is to fuel our bodies!
I think it helps that our son doesnt normally eat with us. This is because he goes to bed much earlier than us, DH gets home late and we ourselves dont feel like eating when our son has his evening meal. So - I can make what he likes. Hes only two so I cant ask him, but I know what he has eaten before...which is how I know he likes it! lol
If he doesnt finish it all. Thats fine. If he doesnt want it at all. Thats fine too. Thats usualy where it ends.
I dont let him starve though. But its also not realistic for me to go back in the kitchen to keep making him foods until he is satisfied with what he is given. It sounds cruel - but I guess its how you view this sentence but in our house its 'you eat what you are given, or nothing at all'. But that doesnt mean you then starve or are punished for not eating or that eating is set to a limit. As soon as we get down from the table I put out some fresh fruit. If he has not eaten what he was given there is usually a reason behind that.
So thirdly, I think its reasonable to be reasonable...lol
1). My son snacks all day long - he doesnt usually do one big meal. So I do provide healthy snacks for him all day long. He may not have wanted to eat the meal I made him but if I add up his snacks, thats plenty enough usually! lol...I have friends who limit what their children eat. I dont. Its my sons body. So if he doesnt want what he is given - he is telling me he is not hungry. (if he doesnt wnat what he is given but wants the crisps instead - then hes telling me he is being fussy and I will remind him we eat healthy first and as I said this usually is enough for him...he eats what he is given or some of it...and then he can have the crisps by all means! lol) I will save it for him for later - put it on a table he can help himself to later. He usually does about and hour later. If he doesnt I assume perhaps he is unwell...and this for us is a sure sign!
2). Growth spurts, etc... Some days as pp have said above...my son will go without eating much at all - and then eat the whole house a week later like I dont feed him! lol
If your son doenst want to eat, I would leave it at that. Its his body. If this is a normal thing...look at what else he is eating. Perhaps he has plenty to eat during the day? Come evening my sons meal is very very small compared to the rest and all the snacks he has had inbetween - so I wouldnt expect him to be really hungry then anyhow. And if you are worried about his diet, just provide lots of healthy snacks!