We incorporated new tastes and flavors into our kid’s diets from a very early age, which helped to develop their palates and prevented them from becoming a picky eater. We don’t buy junk food and give them options of fresh fruit, yogurts, raw almonds, and dried whole grains cereals for snack time.
by: Cat Cora
I’m sure every mother goes through a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions when it comes to food, especially when one of her kids become a picky eater. It has been quite the learning process trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of helping the kids enjoy healthy foods while still respecting their need for autonomy.
When you have a picky eater at home, any meal can become an exercise in tantrums, tears and untouched food. While too much change tends to draw stubborn refusals, too little change may leave you feeling like no progress is being made.
Picky eating is incredibly common in kids, with some academic studies pointing to a rate as high as 22% in children between the ages of 2 and 11. Another survey of 4,000 children found that nearly half of all kids can be described as picky eaters at one time or another.
But the knowledge that your picky eater isn’t the only one probably won’t do much to ease the stress after three, four or five nights of dinner table stand-offs! If you’re wondering how to overcome picky eating in your household, the solution starts with a deeper look at the root causes behind these behaviors: Why are kids picky eaters in the first place? It is because of the two factors that affect their eating behaviour.
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So how can we encourage kids who are picky eaters to overcome this behavior, to eat and enjoy their meals? How we can help parents especially moms that get frustrated by this typical toddler behavior. Just make healthy food choices available and know that, with time, your child’s appetite and eating behaviors will level out. In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you get through the picky eater stage.
1. Family style. Share a meal together as a family as often as you can. This means no media distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you’ve served. This only encourages picky eating. Try to include at least one food your child likes with each meal and continue to provide a balanced meal, whether she eats it or not.
2. Food fights. If your toddler refuses a meal, avoid fussing over it. It’s good for children to learn to listen to their bodies and use hunger as a guide. If they ate a big breakfast or lunch, for example, they may not be interested in eating much the rest of the day. It’s a parent’s responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.
3. Break from bribes. Tempting as it may be, try not to bribe your children with treats for eating other foods. This can make the “prize” food even more exciting, and the food you want them to try an unpleasant chore. It also can lead to nightly battles at the dinner table.
4. Try, try again. Just because a child refuses a food once, don’t give up. Keep offering new foods and those your child didn’t like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry when a new food is introduced.
5. Variety: the spice. Offer a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits, and include higher protein foods like meat and deboned fish at least 2 times per week. Help your child explore new flavors and textures in food. Try adding different herbs and spices to simple meals to make them tastier. To minimize waste, offer new foods in small amounts and wait at least a week or two before reintroducing the same food.
6. Make food fun. Toddlers are especially open to trying foods arranged in eye-catching, creative ways. Make foods look irresistible by arranging them in fun, colorful shapes kids can recognize. Kids this age also tend to enjoy any food involving a dip. Finger foods are also usually a hit with toddlers. Cut solid foods into bite size pieces they can easily eat themselves, making sure the pieces are small enough to avoid the risk of choking.
7. Involve kids in meal planning. Put your toddler’s growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let you child pick which fruit and vegetable to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes to try.
8. Tiny chefs. Some cooking tasks are perfect for toddlers (with lots of supervision, of course): sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh herbs from a garden or windowsill, and “painting” on cooking oil with a pastry brush, to name a few.
9. Crossing bridges. Once a food is accepted, use what nutritionists call “food bridges” to introduce others with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. If your child likes pumpkin pie, for example, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots.
10. A fine pair. Try serving unfamiliar foods, or flavors young children tend to dislike at first (sour and bitter), with familiar foods toddlers naturally prefer (sweet and salty). Pairing broccoli (bitter) with grated cheese (salty), for example, is a great combination for toddler taste buds.
It is important to us (parents) to consistently serve children a variety of foods from the major food groups – rice and alternatives, fruits and vegetables, meat and alternatives. Or we can also seek help from the medical professionals such as your pediatricians and dietitians.
written by: Carrlyn Balonzo