Big Kid

Got a Picky Eater? This is What You Should Know!

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Your son used to go bananas over bananas but now he won’t even look at the fruit. No amount of coaxing can seem to rekindle his interest in his formerly favorite food. Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone! Whether you’re introducing a new vegetable or reintroducing an old favorite, feeding a picky eater is tricky business and in this Baby Care Weekly article, we’ll help you out!

Picky eating or selective eating is a normal episode in childhood. Experts say children most likely go through a selective eating phase when they reach the ages of 1 to 6 but this episode will usually pass. In the mean time, here are some useful things to know about picky eaters and how you can navigate through this phase.

Feed for the long-term

Instead of stressing out on your current situation, remember that the ultimate goal is to introduce long-term healthy eating habits for your child. Don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t eat the new food now. There is no point making mealtimes messy or stressful for either of you. In fact it can be counterproductive as your child ends up associating a particular food with an unpleasant experience and thus become even more aversive to it.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Follow the “one bite” rule. Let your child have a bite of the food and if he likes it, great, if not, then try again another day perhaps adding a new flavorful twist.
  • Start with small individual pieces or portion sizes for new food and gradually increase the serving size over time.
  • Let your child understand the benefits of eating healthy food.
  • Mix new food with old favorites. For example, if you want your child to eat carrots, serve it on a plate with other familiar food. This will not only offset the unfamiliarity but make your child open up to variety.

Have fun with flavors

Got a Picky Eater? This is What You Should Know! | Baby Care Weekly

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You’ve probably heard that sweet foods are more palatable to children. The theory behind this is that humans are wired to associate sweet food with survival – think of breast milk – and bitter-tasting food as being potentially poisonous. Keeping this in mind, make mealtime appetizing for your kid by experimenting with ways to bring out the natural sweetness of certain foods or by making them more palatable to picky taste buds.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Roast vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness.
  • Sour flavors can offset bitterness so consider sprinkling bitter-tasting foods like zucchini and broccoli with healthy citrus juices.
  • Serve otherwise bland vegetables with a dip or sauce.
  • Some children’s clinics follow a method called “food chaining” which works by letting children try out different food with similar flavors. For example, if your child loved snacking on French fries, you can let him try sweet potato fries for his next snack.

Follow a routine

Your child might refuse to eat simply because he isn’t hungry and this is where having a set feeding time will come in handy. Following a routine will help you monitor your child’s eating habits and thus adequately respond to his hunger or appetite.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make eating a family ritual so your child thinks of it as pleasant and something he wants to be part of.
  • Let your child eat his meals and snacks at the same time each day.
  • Serve water in between meals instead of juices or milk. If your child fills up on flavorful fluids, he might feel too full and lose his appetite when it’s time to eat.
  • Turn off distractions like the television or gadgets when you eat. You should all be focused on the food when eating.

Work with your child

It is normal for parents to want the best for their children and we all have the tendency to use a command and conquer strategy with our kids. Instead of imposing your expectations and enforcing strict rules, learn to work with your child as a team. Be considerate of your child’s needs and concerns as you guide him through this crucial time.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Always be patient especially when introducing new foods.
  • Make eating into an interactive learning experience. Ask your child to describe the food’s tastes and textures.
  • Ask what your child liked or did not like about certain food and keep this feedback in mind the next time you prepare a meal.
  • Let your child participate in selecting food. For example, ask your child to pick fruits and vegetables the next time you go grocery shopping.
  • Be a good role model. Let your child follow your healthy eating habits and food choices.

When to contact a doctor

In rare cases, selective eating may be a symptom of an underlying physical or psychological issue. Don’t worry, help is available! Consult your child’s doctor if you notice the following:

  • Your child’s problems with food and eating have persisted for a year without significant improvement
  • Your child’s eating habits and behaviors are interfering with family life
  • Your child displays symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Your child displays signs of heightened senses which could cause him to be oversensitive to different tastes
  • Your child suffers from nutritional deficiencies as a result of being a picky eater
  • Your child has food sensitivities or physical conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Cultivating good eating habits in your child, like most aspects of parenting, requires patience and flexibility. Learn to look at things from your child’s perspective and you’ll find yourself becoming more creative and understanding of their qualms over certain food. The important thing is you address problem areas without compromising the general goal of building a healthy relationship with food.

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Here’s a funny video of cute kids enjoying this frozen treat: