Do you have to run after your kid with his food? Is this an everyday scenario? Fret not. Here are 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food.
It is a fact that many kids are fussy about food. A 2015 study that observed kids’ eating patterns concluded that choosy or fussy eating has underlying personality traits. It also has mealtime parental control, maternal eating patterns, and social influences related to it. So, when your kid turns up his nose when it is time to eat, know there are dizzying reasons for it.
Pediatrician Tanya Altmann, MD, says “If a picky eater isn’t getting enough good nutrition because of being too selective, in individual cases, picky eating (especially extreme picky eating) can lead to both short- and long-term nutrient deficiencies and other problems.”
So, use these 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food and watch the happy glow on your kid’s face when he eats!
10 Tips for Picky Eaters to Eat Food
Kids’ nutrition is challenging but it need not be frustrating. Don’t worry if your kid is not ready to eat food items other than his favorite ones. You can incorporate smart steps to help them get over their finicky attitude towards food. But go slow and let these tips work for your kid in the best way.
So, use these 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food and watch your kids’ food preferences mature. With these tricks, you can conquer the mealtime battles with your kid in his best interest.
Respect Your Child’s Appetite or Lack of One
Understand your kid’s appetite and hunger clock. If he is not hungry, never force him to eat just because it is meal time. This might make your kid associate mealtime with a power struggle over food. Fussy eaters toddlers can lose sensitivity to their hunger or fullness cues.
To avoid overwhelming your kid, serve food in small portions. This serves a dual purpose. Your kid won’t be snowed under to see foods that they don’t like and there will be fewer chances of wasting food. It is easier for them to try a bell pepper slice than staring at a plate having bell peppers in the food.
Give It Time
It is common for kids to be finicky eaters. In a study conducted in 2016, it was found that more than 25% of kids between 1.5 and 5 years of age are picky eaters. If the picky food habits are not outgrown, consult a pediatrician. They can give you a picky eater food list to follow.
Kids are still learning and developing tastes till the age of 5. Their thoughts and evaluations about those foods become more stabilized. At times such kids are seen to be having a sensory disorder. It limits their food tolerance. Kids need to get the time and have space so that they can try new foods. Encourage them to be open to trying new foods. Also, assure them that there will be no arguments around food.
Be Patient With New Foods
When kids are introduced to new foods, they tend to touch and smell those. And if tempted enough, they put it in their mouth. So, it is good to provide repeated exposure to your kid to new foods before they taste them. This is one of the best ways to support picky eaters.
Talk to your kid about the new food’s aroma, texture, color, and shape. Serve its portions along with your kid’s favorite foods. Continue giving them these foods until they get used to having them on their plate and start eating those without fuss.
Involve Your Child
Involve kids in preparing meals. This makes them participate actively in selecting ingredients and cooking meals. Further, this imparts them a sense of control. Let your kids pick groceries, prepare food, and set the table. Kids are much more willing to eat when they become a part of food selection or preparation. This is one of the 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food that will help you tackle the situation well.
Little ones love to whip up muffin or pancake batter, whisk eggs, and prepare their cereal and milk. So, allow them to do these as per their age. This keeps their curiosities up and they stay excited about the result – eating the meal. Give them colorful foods, cut into fun shapes, and/or paired with dips. You can also use colorful plates or exciting lunch boxes to serve them. By doing so, you will be making food fun and mealtimes a positive experience.
Add Variety to the Menu
Enrich your kid’s platter with food variety. This is imperative in bringing your kids more towards happy eating. Adding variety makes deciding food for extremely picky eaters easy. This makes them understand that they will get to eat different types of food every day. Introduce one-two new food items every week.
At times, give them options to choose from. This habit will make them happy to pick food as they like. It also teaches them decision-making skills when it comes to eating. Be consistent and creative with this approach. Expand their food variety, get them to eat, and they will be used to eat well, without feeling the pressure.
Help Kids with Having Sweets Sparingly
Don’t ban sweets for a fussy eater baby. Help kids manage when and how they eat them. Guide kids about having three meals every day but only one dessert. If you forbid sweets and treats completely, it can lead kids to overindulge when such food is available.
Give them a sweet assortment. Ask them how much they should have every day. If they want to have one after lunch, they can’t have another after dinner. Keep track of the assortment you have given them. Its sweets should be lessened in a one sweet per day fashion. That’s a good way to learn.
Exposure is Important
Parents who want to understand how to get a child to eat when they refuse, here is another tip. Nutrition science research suggests that it takes kids up to 12 exposures to any given food to put it in the category of food they “like”. A child may not like a new food right away when you put it on the table.
However, exposure might be looking at the food, listening to parents talk about it, helping cook the food (as mentioned above), and having the urge to taste it. Never pressurize your kid to like it. If he doesn’t want to eat it, your pressure will send that food to the “unliked” list. And the next exposure to a new food will become more difficult.
Create a Routine
Start with offering three meals and two snacks to your picky eater every day. This will make the kid learn what hunger feels like before he gets to eat something. If hunger pangs hit them, they will be open to eat what you give. Their tantrums about food and sporadic eating style are more likely to diminish this way.
However, consider the season so that you can pick food items accordingly. If it is winter, pick foods that help your kid stay warm. If summers are around, know the best and worst summer foods and feed your little one accordingly.
Be a Role Model
People have unique food preferences. Watch your language at mealtimes. Talk about the benefits of eating different types of foods. Show that you care for food. Use words that make your kid understand the value of food and having it. Never talk about dieting or anything of that sort around your kids. This is one of the 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food.
Kids don’t do what you tell but what you show. They follow you. Eat healthy food and your kids will follow suit. Throw tantrums at the table and your kids will do the same. So, model the behavior you want in your kid – be open to eat everything that is on the table and excited to try new foods.
Separate Behavior Issues from Picky Eating
Don’t confuse behavior issues with finicky eating. If your kid screams at the table, rashly pushes away the plate, or runs away; that is not a picky eating issue but a behavior problem. Here, you need to understand the psychology of picky eaters.
And behavior issues need to be dealt with appropriately. If you try to address behavior problems as eating issues, the feeding experience will turn negative. Help them learn by example. Be positive when serving food to kids and show them your like for that food.
Picky food eating in kids is a stressful issue related to parents or caregivers. Watch your kid’s fluctuating food preferences and appetite, which is quite normal. So, don’t worry if your efforts don’t reap fruits initially. Watch their eating pattern over a week or even a month.
Make sure to maintain a balance between motivating your kids to listen to their bodies and exploring their varieties. If you are wondering how to get a child to eat when they refuse, these tips are quite helpful.
Lee Gibson, PhD, a reader in biopsychology and director of the Clinical and Health Psychology Research Centre at the University of Roehampton in London says, “An important point to remember is that fussy or picky eating is normal in young kids.”
Never overreact or apply a strict food routine to handle fussy eating patterns. It won’t work. Understand what makes them so choosy and work accordingly to help them get over it.
So, implement the above 10 tips for picky eaters to eat food, develop good eating habits, and stay healthy.