Is your child a picky eater? Here are some tips to help you deal with it.
Does your child refuse to eat green foods or foods that are mixed together? If so, you may have a picky eater.
Picky eating is so common it is almost a right of passage. Luckily, it is usually a stage. Many children first exhibit the signs of picky eating when they are toddlers. A toddler is just learning how to control his or her body. But parents want to make sure kids have a healthy, balanced diet, by controlling the child’s eating habits. So, the stage is set for a mealtime power struggle.
The Mayo Clinic reassures parents that unless there is an actual medical problem, kids generally get enough variety and nutritious food over the course of a week to be healthy. Most children outgrow the picky eater stage unless the situation gets out of hand. Ultimately you want your child to have a healthy relationship with food.
Why is My Child a Picky Eater?
Children’s taste buds are different than those of adults. So it could be that a food that tastes fine to you actually does taste bad to your child. Poor eating habits may be reinforced if parents reward or punish a child’s picky eater behaviors.
Or it could just be that your kid is being a kid.
Tips for Dealing With a Picky Eater
- Patience is the key. In general, try not to overreact and become anxious or angry. Mealtimes should be peacetime, not wartime.
- The “clean plate club” is an outdated concept. Overly rigid rules about meals usually do not help. Many people make a rule that the kid must try one (or two, or three) bites of each food. Then they can eat as much as they want of whatever food they like. When it comes to eating, try to share the responsibility with your child. The parent controls what food is available and when and where it is consumed. The child controls what foods he chooses to eat and how much.
- Depending on her age and skills, there are so many ways you can involve your child in the planning and preparation of meals. Choose and study the recipe. Shop together and allow her to choose individual items. Cook together. Even small children love to stir and mix.
- If your child likes to dress up, make him chef for a day, complete with an apron and a hat. Take pictures to share at school. Even if the child did not love the meal, he will be proud of his accomplishment.
- It is also fun to assemble a meal. Try a burrito night. Set out bowls with fillings, such as rice, beans, tomatoes, avocados, and cheese. Then let her assemble her very own burrito.
- Go global. Choose a favorite country or culture and make food from that region.
- Play with the language of food. Preschoolers will gobble up vegetables if they are called “superhero carrots” or “snowpuff cauliflower”.
- The American Heart Association suggests encouraging kids to “eat their colors.” Eating brightly colored foods tends to provide nutritional variety.
If you are concerned about your child’s health or growth rate, see your doctor. Keep in mind that for young children, you may be heaping too much on his plate. A serving should consist of about a tablespoon per year of age.
Here are some helpful resources for parents of picky eaters:
- Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, by registered dietician nutritionist Ellyn Satter
- It’s Not About the Broccoli, by sociologist Dina Rose
- My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything, by food marketing expert Nancy Tringali Piho
- French Kids Eat Everything, by academic and ex-pat Karen Le Billon
- Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, by pediatrician Laura A. Jana
- Helping Your Child With Extreme Picky Eating, by pediatrician Katja Rowell and speech language pathologist Jenny McGlothlin
- Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters, by Karen Le Billon
- Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater, by pediatrician Nimali Fernando and speech language pathologist Melanie Potock
- My Child Won’t Eat! How to Enjoy Mealtimes Without Worry, by Spanish pediatrician Carlos Gonzalez