Unless you have a child that is a picky eater, you have no idea of how complicated it can be. The struggle is real! I never thought it would be so challenging at times to simply make a child eat. It became a real concern with my youngest, because my daughter struggled to gain weight since she was a newborn. In her case, it wasn’t just matter of being fussy or testing my patience, but her acid reflux made it especially uncomfortable to eat certain foods. That’s when I learned that sometimes there is much more to picky eating than what meets the eye. Aside from food allergies, many children have issues with textures or certain flavors, so make sure to discuss any concerns with your child’s pediatrician.
It doesn’t help at all the everybody seems to have an opinion when it comes to parenting. When it comes to feeding your children, don’t be surprised to see grandparents, friends and even strangers weigh in. However, you know your child better than anybody, and assuming you have gathered the best information you can, this knowledge will allow you to make the best choices. That’s why even though I am sharing what worked for me, I totally respect what other families decide to do.
Things did get better as my children got older. They eat a variety of foods, love fruit and I have taught them to think of food as fuel for their brain and bodies. However, I know how hard it is to live with a picky eater, so here are a few do’s and don’ts if you’re having a hard time getting your child to simply eat.
5 Picky eater don’ts
- Don’t let mealtime become a power struggle. When children are trying to assert their independence, they might use food to show how they want to make their own mind. Don’t allow food to be at the center of this battle of the wills.
- Don’t force children to eat.
- Don’t mix different types of textures or colors; separate or divide them, instead. Put small portions in small bowls or in a plate that has dividers. Some children can’t tolerate different foods touching each other and this way you avoid one of the sources of conflict. The idea is that once the child gets used to eating different colors and textures, you can try mixing things up again.
- Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. To teach our children a healthy relationship with food, always keep in mind that we eat food for nourishment, not to penalize or reinforce behaviors.
- Don’t stop trying. Persistence pays off. Many studies show you need to keep insisting. A child might need to try a new food over a dozen times until he or she gets used to it. This applies especially to babies and toddlers.
5 Picky eater do’s
- Do discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. Sometimes being picky can actually be a symptom of food allergies or sensitivities.
- Make sure your children see you trying different foods. Kids, especially toddlers, really enjoy imitating their parents’ behavior.
- Do monitor your child’s overall food and caloric intake, to ensure he or she is getting an adequate nutrition.
- Do make mealtime fun by decorating the plate with ketchup, using vegetables to make funny faces or having your child pick their dinnerware. Try using cookie cutters to turn even basic sandwiches into something fun. Some kids love finger foods, so try cutting up veggies, fruits and cheese cubes so they can try new flavors.
- Do pick your battles. Flexibility is key, within reasonable limits, especially if it helps avoid power struggles during mealtimes. It also helps when you give your child some choices: perhaps have her or him decide between strawberries and bananas, or carrots and sweet potatoes, so they feel empowered.
Remember that aside from getting your child to eat more, the idea is to help her or him develop a healthy relationship with food. Good luck!