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Good nutrition is very important for children with CF. As your child gets older, getting him or her to eat may become more difficult. They may like or dislike certain foods, or they may be a picky eater. This is OK! You can still do things to help your child eat well and stay healthy. The key is to start teaching your child good eating skills at a young age. Remember, children learn by doing. Encourage healthy eating in your home by following the tips below1:

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Before mealtime

  • Schedule 3 meals and 3 snacks at about the same time every day. Give your child enough time to feel hungry in between snacks and meals. This will help encourage them to eat more and try new foods
  • Try to have all the food ready before it's time to eat. This will allow you to spend time with your child during meals. Give your child lots of attention and praise for eating
  • Do not allow distractions at the table. No toys, TV, iPods, iPads, books, etc
  • Cook 1 meal for the whole family. Make the proper adjustments for your child with CF by adding extra calories to his or her portion (more cheese, butter, oil, etc)

During mealtime

  • State when it's time to eat. Instead of asking, “Would you like to eat?” say, “It's dinner time”
  • Do not make your child feel pressured to eat. Never beg, coax, or punish them for not eating. Children do what gets their parents' attention. If your child does not eat, simply ignore the bad behavior by talking with others at the table. Talk to your CF care team if your child continues to not eat
  • Sit close to your child and always make eye contact
  • Set a good example. Children learn by doing, so if you sit at the table with a positive attitude about eating and trying new foods, they may too
  • Keep the length of meals to about 20 minutes or less
  • Ask your CF care team about developing a rewards system for good eating behavior. Offer a non-food reward, like watching a movie or playing for an extra half hour before bedtime

Give choices

  • Ask your child if he or she would like to try a new food. Don't try to hide or sneak in any foods he or she dislikes or hasn't tried before. Your child won't trust you and may become harder to feed during meal times
  • Let your child make his or her own decisions. Ask if he or she would like a milkshake or peanut butter sandwich for a snack
  • Let your child choose whether he or she wants to open their enzyme capsules or have you do it for them
  • Have your child choose between 2 high-calorie extras to add to his or her meal. For example, “Would you like extra cheese or butter?”
  • Keep offering new foods even if your child chooses not to eat it. Typically, a child needs to see the food 10 to 15 times before they are willing to try it

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  • Be relaxed and realistic about eating. Chances are, your child will be, too
  • Try and stick to 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, but know that your child may need more based on his or her individual needs. Your CF care team can help determine what's best for your child
  • Set aside time (separate from mealtime) to talk to your child about why they need to eat healthy, high-calorie foods
  • Be there for your child. Let them know you understand his or her frustrations. Listen when he or she opens up about having to eat a lot and having CF
  • Ask your CF care team to pair you with another CF caregiver who has faced and overcome eating challenges

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Reference: 1. Healthy eating. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. https://www.cff.org/Living-with-CF/Treatments-and-Therapies/Nutrition/Healthy-Eating/. Accessed May 1, 2016.
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