Parents want to instill healthy eating behaviors in their kids. But it can be a challenge to make food that they will eat and that also provides the nutrients they need. How parents manage children’s eating behavior has a lot to do with what children eat. Following are 10 common feeding mistakes.

Parents want to instill healthy eating behaviors in their kids. But it can be a challenge to make food that they will eat and that also provides the nutrients they need. How parents manage children’s eating behavior has a lot to do with what children eat. Following are 10 common feeding mistakes.

1. Eating to cure boredom. How many times a day do kids say, “I’m hungry?” Sometimes they are, but often they are just bored. Offering food to fill time teaches them that eating is a solution for boredom. Teach them instead that they don’t need to eat at the first sign of hunger. Help them find other solutions to boredom. Keeping consistent meal and snack times will help prevent boredom eating.

2. Using food as a reward or to make them feel better. Kids naturally prefer sweets, but when you connect sweets to good feelings or use them as a reward for eating their vegetables, you increase their preference for sweets. Teach them healthy ways to manage their emotions and not to use food to soothe hurt feelings. Withholding dessert until the broccoli is gone reinforces the idea that some foods are unappealing and sweets are a prize.

3. Distracted eating. Eating during screen time or in the car is associated with poor diet quality. These habits become difficult to overcome, even as an adult. Assign a designated place for meals and snacks to teach kids to associate eating with sedentary behavior. Sometimes you may have to eat in the car, but make it seldom.

4. Pressuring them to eat more. Focusing attention on eating a certain amount of food promotes overeating and a dislike of the food in question. It is normal for kids to be picky eaters, and a parent’s job is to serve a variety of healthy foods to expose children to all kinds of food. It’s not your job to make them eat it. Let your children stop eating when they say they are full, but remind them that there won’t be any more food until the next scheduled snack or mealtime. With babies or very young children, don’t push that last spoonful of baby food or ounce of milk in the bottle once they have given you clues that they are done.

5. Depriving sweets. Restricting foods increases the desire for those foods. If you forbid sweets in your house, chances are the kids will overeat them whenever they are available. Likewise, don’t keep a stash of food that the kids can’t have. It’s fine to set limits on sweets, but teach them to have a healthy relationship with all foods — desserts included.

6. Letting little kids eat like big kids. Infants are pre-wired to prefer sweets and fats. Early, frequent exposure to these foods makes the preference stronger. Kids with older siblings are more likely to have an early introduction to unhealthy foods. Give sweets and other treats to the older kids when the little ones aren’t around to help limit their exposure.

7. Offering too many snacks. Constant snacking means kids are not likely to be interested in a proper meal and will be less likely to try new foods. Offer no more than two or three snacks a day, with at least two hours between snacks and meals. Snacks should have no more 200 calories.

8. Getting too many calories from liquids. Sweetened beverages, such as soda, sports drinks and fruit juice, are empty calories. They don’t fill kids up, so they are usually extra calories, as well. Limit beverage choices at home to milk, water and occasional diluted 100-percent fruit juice.

9. Preparing their plate. Kids are more likely to eat if they have a say in what and how much goes on their plate. Adults tend to serve adult-sized portions, which is too much food and can be overwhelming for kids. If you do plate their food, be sure to use age-appropriate portions. Encourage children to eat what they serve themselves and to stop when they are comfortably full.

10. Serving kid-friendly meals. Special-order cooking for the kids or serving only kid-approved foods encourages picky eating. It may also promote a diet that isn’t very nutritious. You should prepare one meal for the whole family, but it is fine to include some foods that you know your kid will eat. Keep offering new foods, though. It may take 10 or 15 times of offering a kid a new food before it is accepted.

Children thrive on predictability, schedule and routine. Do your best to keep structured meals and snacks. Offering choices gives kids a sense of control, which will make them more willing to try new foods. So will letting them help out in the kitchen.