In addition to those in early childhood having a smaller appetite, their parents may notice a general reticence to try new foods, or a preference for certain foods, often served or eaten in a particular way. Some of these changes can be traced back to the “just right” (or just-so) phenomenon that is common in early childhood. Many young children desire consistency and may be upset if there are even slight changes to their daily routines. They may like to line up their toys or other objects, or place them in symmetric patterns. They may arrange the objects until they feel “just right”. Many young children have a set bedtime ritual and a strong preference for certain clothes, toys or games. All these tendencies tend to wane as children approach middle childhood, and the familiarity of such ritualistic behaviors seem to bring a sense of security and general reduction in childhood fears and anxiety (Evans, Gray, & Leckman, 1999; Evans & Leckman, 2015).
Malnutrition is not common in developed nations like the United States, yet many children lack a balanced diet. Added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and teens in the US. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk (CDC, 2015). Caregivers need to keep in mind that they are setting up taste preferences at this age. Young children who grow accustomed to high fat, very sweet and salty flavors may have trouble eating foods that have subtler flavors such as fruits and vegetables. Consider the following advice about establishing eating patterns for years to come (Rice, 1997). Notice that keeping mealtime pleasant, providing sound nutrition and not engaging in power struggles over food are the main goals: