How to cure a junk food addict

For the past three years, my 9-year-old son has eaten little besides french fries. He sometimes tries yogurt, commercial fruit snacks, orange-type drinks, popcorn and other crunchy snacks. Usually he eats only what he wants and refuses anything else. His doctor says he’s healthy, and although my son takes Ritalin to treat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I haven’t noticed that the drug has changed his diet. Any suggestions?

It sounds as if your son is healthy and growing well despite your worry that his diet is inadequate. It also sounds as if he’s well aware of the worry he is causing you, and like many – or should I say, all – kids, he likes the attention he receives, even if it is negative.

I can tell you from my experience that kids on Ritalin often lose their appetites, and may even lose weight if they don’t follow an appropriate meal or medication schedule. So be sure to monitor your son’s growth and weight more regularly while he is on Ritalin.

Having said that, here are my thoughts:

  • Encourage your son to eat well-balanced meals together with the rest of your family, as much as possible. Positive encouragement to try new foods is acceptable, but avoid cajoling, bribes or other forceful tactics. When your son is finished eating, accept it without any sign of worry or resentment.
  • Stop keeping french fries in the house if you want your son to cut back on them. In other words: If you don’t buy them, he can’t eat them. Assuming your son is a normal and healthy child, he’ll fill himself with other foods rather than starve for lack of french fries.
  • Be sure to give your son a lot of your time and attention in positive ways – playing games, going on outings, that sort of thing. This will help him to relax and feel good about himself. It’s often easy to be continually frustrated with hyperactive kids, and activities you can do together will help both of you feel good about each other. It may also take the pressure off eating. Good luck!

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