Were you a difficult eater growing up?
Do you worry your child will follow the same path?
Or maybe you grew up eating every food that was given to you but your little one has proven to be quite the picky eater and you are unsure on how to go about it?
We do offer a program for picky eating and other difficult eating patterns especially when there is specific nutrient concerns, but I thought I would pass along some knowledge about some do’s and don’ts in regards to picky eating.
First off, you have to understand that your child’s sensitivity to smells, flavors and textures is a lot more developed then yours. This means some foods that taste fairly mild to you may be too much for your child. Children will often time have difficulty with foods that tend to be on the bitter side and obviously overly spicy. And obviously some children are more sensitive then others.
Other times, it can be an anxiety over trying new foods which can often come from the lack of variety of foods introduce in the early days. Or perhaps your child associates certain foods with bad memories like reflux or vomiting.
Whatever the reason is, it can be both frustrating and worrisome for parents. When your child is skipping meals or avoiding certain food groups, it can make you concern for adequate nutrition! But just know that the odd skipped meal isn’t usually cause for concern!
If your child is happy, growing at a normal rate and hitting milestones then chances are he is getting all the nutrients he needs. Do contact your family doctor if there is general health concerns or if an entire food group is avoided since it can lead to specific nutrient deficiencies.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that help make the situation more manageable.
Creating healthy eating habits and general positive habits around food can help decrease the likelihood of picky eating!
-Don’t offer alternatives: Although it may be tempting it isn’t helping. Instead, make sure there is always an option on the plate your child will eat and is familiar with.
-Do sit down as a family and eat together as often as possible: This creates a role model situation and your child will learn a lot from your eating habits like utensil use and general table manners.
-Don’t treat picky eating as bad behavior: Do not reprimand your child even though it may be frustrating as this can create added stress around food and worsen the picky eating behavior.
-Do minimize distractions: Avoid toys, TV and Ipads at meal times! The focus should be on the food and proper chewing/ handling and yes that means your phone too!
-Don’t forget to include your child: Include your child in food shopping and picking out produce, include your child in preparation (even if it means it takes way longer) or grow a garden together. Your child will be a lot more interested in trying new foods he helped prepare or grow!
-Do avoid bribing or negotiating: This can enable picky eating.
-Don’t use dessert as a reward! It sends the message that dessert is the best food which can lead your child to only wanting sweets more. Still offer dessert but pick a few nights a week and try including healthy foods like yogurt or fruit.
-Don’t label your child as difficult or picky: If your child hears something often enough it can stick and he will accept the label. Saying things like “he’s a picky eater” or “he won’t eat it anyways” can make him feel like he has permission not to explore new foods. It can also decrease self-confidence.
And remember this too shall pass! Just focus on creating these healthy eating habit for your children and this will benefit them as they grow older.