Dealing with Picky Eaters
In what seems to be an epidemic of picky eating, there is certainly no shortage of advice on the subject. It is important to remember that what works for one child, is not necessarily going to work for yours. Be persistent with your efforts, but try not to stress about each thing your child puts (or doesn’t put) into his or her mouth. Instead, focus on encouraging healthy eating habits that will carry your child into adulthood.
Here are common struggles at the table and some tips for dealing with them:
1. Your child eats the same foods every day.
If you agree to let your child eat a limited selection of foods you can decrease their willingness to try new foods and you don’t give them a chance to like something other than their go-to foods. Children tend to go through phases and their favourite foods can change over time, so continue offering new foods.
2. Your child is afraid of trying new foods.
Most children will outgrow this at some point. Offer familiar foods along with new ones. Repeat exposure and gentle encouragement are key. A healthy-eating chart can motivate some children to eat a more balanced diet, encouraging them to try new foods. It can make eating more fun, too. But be sure to only offer non-food rewards. To get you started, check out the healthy-eating chart at avivaallen.com and click on Tools.
3. Your child eats slowly and tends to play with their food.
Although it can be frustrating, rushing your child to eat is not good for digestion. Encourage your kids to play and get creative with their food, however, maintain two rules: All of the food must remain on the plate and they need to actually EAT the food at some point.
4. Your child would rather be playing than eating.
Limit distractions during mealtime. This means no TV, video games, books or other activities at the table. Try involving your child in the preparation of the meal. This will give them a sense of pride and excitement about what is on their plate. Having a vegetable garden at home can also help to achieve this.
5. You feel like you are eating at a negotiating table rather than a dinner table.
Avoid making mealtime a battleground. Parents tend to resort to coaxing and coercing their child into eating, but this is not recommended. As a parent, it is your job to offer your child healthy choices, but ultimately, you cannot and should not force them to eat.
A great tool for getting your kids to eat a more balanced diet, encouraging them to try new foods and it makes eating more fun! http://www.avivaallen.com/Kids-Nutrition/healthy-eating-chart-for-kids.html
Aviva Allen, RHN, is one of Toronto’s leading nutritionists specializing in prenatal, infant, and child nutrition.