Here are some of the tips to make sure that your picky eater gets all the nutrition. They include structuring meal and snack times, having a variety to choose from, introduce new foods slowly, understanding your child’s palate, adding nutritional value to your child’s favorite foods, reducing distractions during meal time, etc and many more.
Are you having trouble feeding your little one because he or she is a picky eater? Do not stress as there are plenty of ways to make sure that your child eats properly. Kids like familiarity and consistency when it comes to many things, such as sleep habits, playtime routines, etc. However, they can be surprisingly unpredictable where food is involved. It can no doubt be worrying as you know that your child will not be getting the proper nutrition that he or she needs to grow and develop properly. But as just mentioned, there is no cause for great concern as there are simple tips that can help you feed your picky little eater.
11 Tips to Make Picky Eaters Eat
You can be sure that your little one has an innate sense of how much food she needs to eat for her body to grow healthily. The best thing that you can do is make sure that she has plenty of healthy choices and that mealtimes are always in a relaxed and positive environment. Here are 11 tips that can help you handle your finicky eater:
1. Structure meal and snack times: Experts say that most picky eaters are what you may call “grazers”, i.e. they eat small amounts throughout the day. By structuring your little one’s eating, you can ensure that she gets three proper meals daily and two healthy snacks in between those meals. You also make sure that she eats when she is hungry and prevent snacking too much by setting proper meal and snack times.
2. Make sure she has variety: It is important to make sure that your child gets a wide range of good foods to eat every day. By giving her variety, you prevent boredom and lower the chances of her complaining about the food she is served. However, when you do serve a new dish, simply put it on the table without making a big deal about it. Also make sure that what she eats is always age-appropriate.
3. Introduce new foods slowly: When you introduce new foods, do it slowly and always in small amounts. For example, instead of giving her an entire meal made up of new foods, include her favorites or what you normally eat every day with a new dish. It is important that you include something that you know your child likes at each meal.
4. Understand your child’s palate: It is important for you to understand that not every child’s palate is the same. Some have very sensitive palates. Your child could be averse to certain colors, flavor or texture of foods. This may be one reason why she refuses to eat something that she has never tasted before. By understanding her palate, you can give her foods that she will not say ‘no’ to.
5. Add nutritional value to her favorite foods: You can boost the nutritional value of the foods that your little one does like to eat by adding healthy stuff to them. You can easily find ways to do this. For example, add fresh fruit chunks to her favorite breakfast cereal or pureed veggies like spinach or carrots to pasta sauce. A few tricks can help you make sure that she gets the nutrition that her body needs.
6. Reduce distractions during meal time: As mentioned earlier, it is important to make sure that mealtimes are relaxed. Kids get distracted easily. If there is a cartoon on TV or a sibling is racing around the table, she may lose interest in the food that is in front of her. Turn off the TV and make sure that everyone is properly seated during meal times so that it is quiet and there are no distractions to keep your picky eater from enjoying her meal.
7. Keep sugary stuff away: It can be tempting to give your child something sweet as a way to make her eat more. This is a huge mistake because you do not want to develop her sweet tooth. Do not use sweets or desserts as a reward or bribe to get her to finish her food. Also, do not keep too many sweets at home as they will only tempt her more. Instead, offer snacks that have natural sweetness such as fruits, low-fat yogurt, etc. and make sweets a small part of a healthy balanced diet.
8. Do not prepare special meals: You have to make sure that you do not end up with the role of a short-order cook for your picky eater. Preparing special meals for her will only make matters worse in the long run. Make sure that she eats what everyone else does. What you can do to make sure she eats is to include something that she likes. Additionally, if there is a family member who is an adventurous eater, seat your finicky eater with them to put a wee bit of positive peer pressure. It is known to work!
9. Let her help in the kitchen: By allowing your child to help you in the kitchen, you give her a feeling of accomplishment and the fact that she contributed to the meal will make her feel proud. Experts say that children, even the pickiest of eaters, are more likely to eat without making a fuss when they have helped in preparing a meal. You can get her to wash the veggies, shell peas or beans or other small prep work and she may try them out once they are on her plate.
10. Do not put pressure: Many times, mealtimes can become a battle of wills among parents and their little picky eaters. Do not fall into this trap. Keep giving her a wide range of good-for-you foods. There is no doubt that she will reject them at first, but do not give up. Many children take their time when a new food is introduced to them and before deciding that they do like it after all. This is why you should keep trying, without putting any pressure. Offer her fruit, veggies and even “grown-up” foods without pressurizing her. Pressure will only make matters worse as it could make her dislike what you offer her even more.
11. Set a good eating example: Children emulate their parents and other grown-ups in their lives. Think about whether you are exemplifying the kind of eating habits that you want your little one to have. It is important for her to see you eat the foods that you want her to. You should also make sure that she does not hear you complaining about food. By setting a good eating example, she will, slowly but surely, follow in your footsteps and adopt the same healthy eating habits.
Do you wonder if your child will outgrow being a picky eater? Chances are that she will. A large percentage of children stop being picky eaters by the time they are at a school-going age. In the meantime, you should take the situation in stride. Praise her for the good things she does during mealtimes and do not make a fuss about her picky-eating behavior. The more you make a big deal about it, the more likely she is to continue being picky.
How to Know If Your Picky Eater Needs Help
Picky eating is often a phase that little children go through. They do get over it. However, there are cases where picky eating goes well beyond the normal age. This problem is known as selective eating. This is when a picky eater continues into middle childhood and over and it comes with a severe reluctance to try out any food that is new. Unlike eating disorders, this problem does not come with issues of body shape and the child’s weight can differ, with many of them being underweight.
Children with a family history of OCD, eating disorders, autism and severe picky eating have a higher risk of developing selective eating. The treatment for this problem is very different from what experts recommend for normal picky eaters. In most cases, children with selective eating are given medication to reduce the severe anxiety they feel when it comes to trying out new foods. Once the anxiety is treated, they are slowly introduced to new foods as they are more relaxed.
As a parent, there is no one who knows your children the way you do. You will sense it when something is wrong, or your child is more than a picky eater. If you sense a serious problem, you should seek professional help immediately. A pediatrician is a great start, but if they cannot refer to anyone, you should consult a dietician who has experience with eating disorders. Experts say that even if a pediatrician tells you that your child’s eating behavior is nothing to worry about, it is important to get her evaluated. Getting treatment as early as possible is important as without being properly treated, selective eaters will grow up to become adults who eat a very small variety of foods. This will have a negative impact on their health and create other problems such as social awkwardness especially in social situations where food is the focus of the gatherings.
To make sure that you manage your picky eater well, follow the tips mentioned above. This will prevent her from developing selective eating. You also ensure that she gains all the nutrients she requires through healthy foods and that any health problems that could affect her growth and development are prevented. After making these efforts, if you still think she is not eating well enough, talk to a physician and a nutrition expert as well.