Tips to Feed Picky Eaters
What is Picky Eating?
Picky eating is when a toddler or an adult refuses food or eats the same food over and over again. This habit may cause the major nutrition insufficiency in the body.
Most children are picky with their food at some point in their childhood. After infancy, toddlers begin to have food preferences. They may choose to play with their food, throw it and do all except actually eat it. As picky eating usually surfaces in the toddler and preschool years, parents may worry that their baby may not be getting the right nutrition.
During that age children begin to feed themselves and it gives them the opportunity to choose what they want to eat. It has been observed that a child grows a lot in his/her first year, as they eat almost triple their weight in food. This growth spurt slows a little in the second year, and it is a time of significant change. Toddlers begin to learn new things and often want to eat food that is the same during this period of transition.
Parents Role in Picky Eating
Research states that the food preferences of parents are linked to the children’s food preference. Parents like to prepare foods that they enjoy more, and the children become familiar with that food. Children need to be exposed to food at least ten times before they can actually decide if they like it or not. Parents can do the following to ensure that the child tries different food.
Prepare meals together with the child. If they are involved in making what they eat, they will be more interested in trying the dish they have created. Have them assist with spooning, measuring and stirring.
Eat a variety of healthy foods yourself while ensuring that you show an example of what you eat you like. Your child will definitely follow that and eat more kinds of food.
When trying new food, do not show disinterest or disgust, as the child is likely to follow you and do the same when given new and healthy foods. Another really effective method is to hire a personal chef who can cook the food based on the person or your child’s liking. There are certain personal chefs known to cater to the specific category of people such as picky eaters, people on a diet, etc. These chefs understand the psychology of the picky eaters and prepare food that they would enjoy eating. While there are plenty of personal chef services across the country, while looking for the best, make sure you also take into consideration the costs for a private chef.
Reasons Why children are Picky
Children can be picky about their food due to the following reasons:
- They may be sensitive to the taste, texture or smell of food.
- Some are just less likely to try new things including new food, because of their temperament.
- They may want to feed themselves and may not like the idea of the adult feeding him or her.
- Some children are hyperactive and sitting for an extended period for meals may seem like a hard task.
Myths related to picky children
There are some myths related to making your picky child eat healthy foods, but they are just myths, and the facts are very different.
Myth: Kids prefer simple flavors
Children are more than willing to try and eat complex flavors. If your little one is bored of plain broccoli, spice it up. Spice and natural flavor, if introduced at an early age can make eating bland vegetables a much more enjoyable experience.
Myth: If a child doesn’t like something once, do not offer that
It can take ten or more exposures for a food to be liked by a child. Every child’s openness to new foods differ, and they may be slow to accept tastes and textures. Avoid force-feeding, as allowing them to eat on their own will make mealtimes less stressful.
Myth: Parents eating habits do not affect children
Parents are the main influence on children. Even the eating habits of parents are copied by children. Parents must encourage trying of new foods, and a healthy side or main dish must always be encouraged at dinner or lunch time.
Myth: Offer rewards for trying new food
This seems to be the easiest option, offering a sugary treat at the end for finishing a healthy meal. However, this will not be feasible in the long run, as your child will expect a treat after every meal. Doing so will also demarcate the vegetables as bad, that they need to eat before they get to eat the good stuff that is the sugary snack.
Tips to get your child to eat right
- Change the menu
Add variety to the meals you are eating and rotate the foods you eat every week. Same meals every single day will make it boring for the child. Serve a variety of dishes with different ingredients to make mealtimes more interesting.
- Don’t make separate meals
Offering separate meals based on the child’s preference will not help. The child doesn’t know what is good and what he/she will like. Make the same meals that you are eating and encourage the child to eat what is made. Making separate meals for the child will set the impression that every time he/she asks for a different meal, they will get it. They will not try new food as they will be sure that their choice will be served.
- Give the child options that you want them to eat
If you do not want the child to eat mac n cheese, don’t serve it. Instead, you can serve vegetables, fruits and a dip as a snack. They may skip the vegetables, but they will eat the fruits if they are really hungry.
- Be a role model for good eating
Have meals together and show what you eat to your children. If they see that the parents and
siblings are eating healthy food with relish, they will also do so. Learn more about the benefits of eating together for families and children.
- Don’t force the child to clean the plate
Help the child to direct their attention on ingesting food until they are satiated. Don’t force them to finish everything that is on their plate. Sometimes adults forget that kids have small bellies and force-feeding them would be equivalent to a punishment.
Getting children to eat can be tricky as they are learning to be independent and want to assert their choices. However, slowly and patiently one can set a routine and get them to eat healthier food.