Picky eating is very popular. It’s typical for kids to have various eating habits, particularly regarding what they like and what they don’t eat.
It’s also common for kids to go through “food jags,” where they refuse to eat anything but a handful of things at each meal.
Always keep in mind that kids are merely learning. The comfort of familiar foods outweighs the fear of unfamiliar ones. The term “picky” used to describe a child’s eating habits is not necessarily justified since even adults have preferences.
When feeding children, time, patience, and a flexible mindset are your best friends.
Dealing with picky eating habits can be easier if you follow these tips.
1. Get your kid involved
If a child has a hand growing, selecting, or preparing the food, they are more likely to eat it. So, be creative about including your child when choosing new meals. A farmer’s market is a great place to take your kid if they want to explore the world of fresh, vibrant produce.
Your child can also help prepare some of the meals. Let them help prepare the table or chop lettuce for the salad, whichever is appropriate for their age. Cooking with eggs, whether it’s for omelets, muffins, or milk and cereal, is a fun activity for kids.
Involve them in creating a whimsical meal, and let them bring their favorite toys to dine. Getting children interested in and enthusiastic about eating is the main objective.
2. At every meal and snack, make sure your child has something they enjoy
So that your child never feels overwhelmed by a new or “learning to like” dish, it’s best to serve it with a familiar or liked food. It may be anything as basic as a half-buttered bread slice or a banana. Knowing that they will eat something (if they are hungry) also helps you relax.
3. Make food fun.
Avoid tension and power battles by making mealtimes an opportunity for discovery and enjoyment. Be creative on how you serve food on your kid’s plate. Make the food colorful to attract the little ones.
4. Including fun tableware
Plates, bowls, and bright and cheerful cutlery can pique the interest of younger kids in the food they are about to eat. Searching online will bring up many results, including food pictures featuring adorable characters, unique chopsticks for training, and spoons and forks shaped like vehicles.
5. Keep introducing new food regularly
Never give up on food just because a youngster rejects it once. Never stop introducing your child to new foods, even if they first turn them off. It may take ten or more tastes of a new dish for toddlers to warm up to it.
Ensure your child is hungry before introducing new foods by sticking to a meal schedule and cutting back on snacks.
6. Do not resort to bribery, pressure, or coercion
We wish for our children to eat only when they are full, not because we force them to eat more or threaten them with TV time or dessert if they don’t.
Avoid putting an excessive amount of emphasis on the quantity of each food that your child consumes. This may cause your child to lose touch with their internal hunger cues and satiety, resulting in conflicts during mealtimes.
7. Have a family meal together
Children look up to their parents as role models, so if they see you eating and enjoying something, they might be more inclined to do the same.
By modeling healthy eating habits for your child and sharing your plate, you can help them develop a positive attitude about food and encourage them to eat diverse foods.
Don’t worry if you can’t always dine as a family; what’s important is to make time for it whenever possible, even if it’s only sitting down to breakfast on the weekends.
8. Be regular when you eat meals and snacks
Kids who munch on unhealthy “filler foods” and drinks between meals are less likely to be hungry when lunchtime rolls around and are less inclined to give their food a fair go.
Your child will learn to be hungry and ready to eat when you establish regular meal and snack times and discourage munching in between.
9. Be mindful of serving sizes
Young children may refuse to eat anything from a huge dish because they feel pushed to finish it all. Start with small servings in manageable chunks and give your child extra if they want it instead of serving them the enormous portions you would like them to consume.
10. Keep introducing your child to new foods
If you want your child to try new foods, you have to offer them the food repeatedly, regardless of whether they reject it or refuse to eat it. Your child’s comfort level with a food item—and their willingness to try it—is directly proportional to the number of times you expose them to it.
Every exposure might have a unique appearance. Some methods to introduce broccoli to a youngster include serving it with cheddar soup, roasted with olive oil and salt, raw with a dip, or even in a stir fry.
You may help your youngster feel more comfortable trying new ingredients by preparing them in various ways. Even better, they may end up enjoying it!
Why is my child a picky eater?
For what reasons do a lot of children become picky eaters? No one factor is solely responsible for picky eating; it may be a learned behavior, a product of genetics and environment, or a mix of the two.
If a child feels too much pressure from adults at mealtimes, they may become picky eaters to express their independence.
Babies may become picky eaters if given solid foods too late and become accustomed to purees or drinking from bottles. On occasion, bad associations with food could cause hatred for it. A youngster may gag on food that brings back bad, sick memories. As a parent, guide your kid by becoming the best book they read during meal time
Be a role model
Some foods are more appealing to some people than others. Adults, on the other hand, should be mindful of the words they use when eating. For example, when you’re with children, don’t mention the subject of diets.
It is crucial to refrain from vilifying foods that you dislike. The adults at the table set the tone for the children to follow.
Over time, most toddlers overcome their phase of being picky eaters. On the other hand, aid from a trained expert may be necessary if your child:
- Restricts their diet to specific colors or textures.
- Exhibit consistent refusal behaviors in various settings, including the grandparent’s house, daycare, home, etc.
- Exhibit extreme irritability in response to novel foods or inconsistencies in food presentation.
- Coughing up food or liquids is a common occurrence for you.
- Do not exhibit growth by their centile.
- Refuse to eat whole food groups and limit their intake to less than 25 items.
Do your best to remain calm and collected if you encounter setbacks when attempting to entice your picky eater. Your child will likely only spend part of their life subsisting on grapes, even if that is all they will eat.
Children often go through phases where they only consume certain foods. Instead of focusing on a single meal or days’ worth of food, try to capture their consumption over a longer period, like a week or even a month.
Listen to your intuition and consult a pediatrician or certified nutritionist if you’re still worried. This is especially recommended if your child has severe reactions to foods they dislike or develops an abrupt dislike for a food they used to love.
You can get help figuring out these tough issues from your pediatrician, who can also refer you to someone who specializes in eating disorders if needed.