What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey

What is a Food Jag and Should You Be Worried?

Do you struggle to make your child eat various foods? As a parent, you want to include as many healthy foods as possible, but you simply cannot force the kid to eat the food you prepare. For example, my daughter only wanted to eat her favorite foods – chocolate flakes cereals and chicken nuggets during the entire summer. Before that, I had never heard about food jags.

Luckily, we overcame it with a few helpful tips! So, what is a food jag?

Today, I’ll address this issue, define picky eaters and other potential feeding challenges you will likely face as your baby grows.

What is a Food Jag?

Food jag is an eating behavior when a child wants to eat only one food or a small group of foods. [1] This food jag definition also refers to it as part of a normal development in children and their way to feeling independent.

Food jag is different from food aversions in children, which means that children refuse to eat certain food.

Toddler Refusing to Eat | What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey
When a toddler throws food and won’t eat the meals you prepared, there are things to understand that will likely help you establish better eating habits, both long and short-term. Source: Parenting.firstcry.com

Why Do Children Develop Food Jags?

Food jags and food aversion in toddlers are common stages during a baby’s cognitive leaps, which allow them to learn new things. During the sensory-motor leap, which happens before the second birthday, a child understands that he or she is separate from the caregiver and discovers different textures. [2]

In simple words, a baby may refuse food through cues like spitting out food or making faces because of food properties or because of gaining independence. In most cases, you shouldn’t worry if your child gags when trying new foods or has some food texture issues.

Sensory food aversions happen when a baby avoids certain food based on food properties, such as:

  • Taste
  • Texture
  • Temperature
  • Color
  • Smell

During the next cognitive leap, when babies develop imaginative thinking between second and seventh year, they might refuse to eat the food that has been in touch with other ingredients.

Addressing Food Jag and Food Aversion

Never Force-Feed Your Child | What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey
Never force your child to eat the food he or she refuses, as it can worsen the aversion. Source: Babycenter.in

So, you noticed food aversion in child and you’re wondering what to do?

The first thing to determine is the healthiness of the food a child wants to eat. For example, if you are lucky enough that your child has developed a food jag with healthy ingredients, such as broccoli, serve it with every meal.

But, make sure that other ingredients on the plate are various and that you aren’t offering the same thing, other than broccoli, too often.

The key to toddler food aversion and food jags overcoming is persistence. You need to keep offering different foods and don’t indulge in the jags, especially if your child only wants to eat fast food or sweets.

Don’t be afraid to let the child get hungry. If your toddler gags on food you serve for breakfast and refuses to eat it, he or she will overcompensate for it later in the day.

Also, when dealing with food aversion, remember to never bribe, threaten or negotiate with the child to try new food. It might help you persuade the baby one time, but you can expect even more struggle next time you offer new food.

The best food aversion therapy is patience, consistency and a varied diet. Expose your child to different foods, and different preparation techniques of the same foods, and let the baby slowly accept new tastes.

Child Shortening The List of Food They Eat | What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey
If your child slowly shortens the list of food he or she eats, it is time to talk to a specialist to prevent the feeding issues from getting more serious. Source: Romper.com

Tips for Food Jags

When dealing with food jags, try different tactics, and tips because what has been effective with my daughter might not work for your children.

Here are some tips you can try.

No short-order cooking

Don’t cook specifically for your child, serve the meals you prepared for the whole family. Try to adapt your ideas to make something that is acceptable for other family members and your child. Sometimes, it might help to serve similar things, because children look up to the adults. When your kid sees their sibling or father eating a plate full of different veggies, he or she might try to do the same.

Applying small changes

Children don’t react well to major changes, so you have to be patient and take baby steps! My daughter only ate chicken nuggets with ketchup, so I slowly introduced a healthier version of tomato sauce. Then, I replaced it with avocado sauce once she was ready to try something new.

Including different foods

Serving foods with different textures and colors is a way to prevent food jags and to deal with them. It is similar to when a baby won’t eat vegetables, be creative! Serve the food with an unusual presentation, add boiled, baked, fried foods, and make sure that there are at least three colors on the plate.

Offering small portions and don’t force

When trying to introduce a food baby refuses, start with small portions. Introduce new food as a side dish, and be patient. Don’t push the baby into eating everything from the plate the first time you serve new food. Slowly increase the portions and let the baby overcome the food jag at his or her pace.

Rotating between different foods

Rotation is essential for developing healthy eating habits from an early age. The rule of thumb to follow is to never serve the same food twice a day and two days in a row.

It requires you to be more creative and come up with six different meals and several snacks every two days. You may check these out for more ideas on healthy toddler meals.

Further reading: Can Babies Have Maple Syrup

Consequences of Food Jag and Food Aversion

Standard picky eating can lead to extreme picky eating or food aversion disorder. Extreme picky eaters eat only a couple of foods for prolonged time, which can cause malnutrition.

Common symptoms of malnutrition in toddlers include hair loss, skin pigment changed, light discomfort, paleness, dry skin, and others. [3]

If the extreme picky eating stage lasts for more than several days, you should seek medical attention, and the doctors will most likely prescribe vitamin supplements and give you more advice. According to a food therapist from Yourkidstable.com, the standard advice about letting your child get hungry won’t work in this case.

Frequently Asked Questions about Food Jags

Let’s answer some questions most parents wonder about during their baby’s childhood.

Are food jags normal?

Food jags are normal and temporary in most cases. They are more common in picky eaters and usually last for several days.

How can food jag be prevented in toddlers?

When you start introducing foods, ensure that you are focusing on diverse meals. Bring in as many ingredients as possible, as long as they are safe for your child’s age. The rotation rule might help as well as the different cooking processes.

Cooking A Type of Food in Different Ways | What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey
Cooking one food in different ways and introducing it through small bites might help to overcome a food aversion. Source: Todaysparent.com

Additionally, children tend to be picky about strong-tasting foods because they have more taste buds compared to adults. So when introducing a new food, especially bitter and sour, start with tiny portions to prevent the child from developing food aversion.

What is the connection between family dinners and healthy eating habits?

Family dinners have a significant and positive effect on children’s eating habits later in age. Children who participated more in family dinners are more likely to eat healthy food, and less likely to develop eating disorders and obesity. [4]

What is the difference between pica and a food jag?

Pica is an eating disorder and individuals with this type of disorder crave things that aren’t food and don’t have nutritional value, such as hair or paint chips. [5]

Food jag is a habit of eating only one type of food or food for a certain time. The primary difference is in the craving – toddlers with pica disorder don’t crave food, but other potentially harmful things.

Is food aversion a sign of autism?

All children have some issues with feeding and can develop food jags and aversions. But, autistic children are more prone to developing food aversion, because of their sensitivity to textures. According to autismspeaks.org, autism food aversions can be managed by changing the ingredient texture.

For example, if the baby avoids fresh tomatoes, you can blend them and serve them that way. When dealing with autism and food refusals, the use of vitamin and mineral supplements is recommended.


Parenting challenges go much further than feeding issues from day one. Food jags and food aversion are the two most common and harmless food issues in young children. Both can be managed and overgrown. The key is food diversity and patience. Try different tactics with your child and let him or her slowly accept new tastes and new food.

If the habits last too long, you can consult a feeding therapist and other experts to prevent the issues from causing malnutrition.

Is your child a picky eater? How do you deal with it? Share your experience, other parents might find it useful!

What is a Food Jag | Baby Journey

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