What can you do if your child is a picky eater? It can be frustrating getting a picky eater to eat. “Mummy, No! I don’t like it! Ew! Yuck! Gross! Or do your kids use different terms? These are popular phrases of picky eaters.
As kids grow, they begin to develop food preferences that can toggle between annoying and worrisome.
It can also be a cause for concern if your child isn’t gaining weight because of his/her selective habits. If this is of concern, don’t despair. Below are some tips and deets what to do if your child is a picky eater
Fix meal and snack times.
Establishing regular times for meals and snacks checks behaviorial change in children. These kids are so smart! If they skip dinner and ask for a snack an hour later (healthy or not) – and are given one time and time again – they will most likely continue with this pattern. The goal is to establish the expectations that meals and snacks happen around a certain time, and that’s when the food is offered. This allows children to actually be hungry when it comes time to eat.
Incorporating family meals- everyone seated at the dining/kitchen table will go a long in managing your picky eater.
Share a meal together as a family as often as you can, preferably with no media distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you’ve served- it will only encourage picky eating. Try to include at least one food your child likes with each meal and continue to provide a balanced meal, whether or not he eats it.
Check out this article on Nigerian School Lunch Ideas
Have them involved.
Children are shown to eat food more when they have a hand in choosing or preparing it. You could even go as far as planting a garden at home. This will enable them to learn about the process from start to finish – and they may be more inclined to eat their creation. They can also get involved in recipe development. Tip: Each week, choose one new food and have your picky eater come up with three different recipes that incorporate that item.
If your picky eater refuses a meal, avoid fussing over it. It’s good for children to learn to listen to their bodies and use hunger as a guide. If they ate a big breakfast or lunch, for example, they may not be interested in eating much for the rest of the day. It’s a parent’s responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like or eating in general.
Variety: The Grand Spice.
Help your picky eater explore new flavors and textures in food by offering a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits. You can include higher protein foods like meat and fish at least two times per week. Try adding different herbs and spices to simple meals to make them tastier. To minimize waste, offer new foods in small amounts and wait at least a week or two before reintroducing the same food.
Try, again and again.
Just because a picky eater refuses food once, don’t give up. Keep offering new foods and those your child didn’t like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a portion of food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry when a portion of new food is introduced.
Let your child pick which fruit and vegetable to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or local market. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes to try.
Be Creative with Food.
Most picky eaters are especially open to trying foods arranged in eye-catching, fancy creative ways. Make foods look irresistible for a picky eater by arranging them in fun, colorful shapes that will appeal to them. Depending on the ages, cut solid foods into bite-size pieces they can easily eat themselves, making sure the pieces are small enough to avoid the risk of choking.
Involve kids in meal planning.
Another thing you can do if your child is a picky eater is to put your kid’s growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let your picky eater choose which fruit and vegetable to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or local market. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes to try.
Mummy’s Little chefs.
Some cooking tasks are perfect for children (with adequate supervision, of course): sifting, stirring, handing ingredients and utensils, picking fresh herbs from a garden to name a few. Have them so involved in the preparation process that they feel they practically prepared the food. If there’s anything I know, it’s that kids do not turn down meals they prepared themselves.
Once a food is accepted, use what nutritionists call “food bridges” to introduce others with similar color, flavor, and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. If your picky eater likes Moi-Moi, for example, try corn pudding and then bean pottage.
A fine pair.
What else can you do if your child is a picky eater? Try serving unfamiliar foods, or flavours a picky eater tend to dislike at first, with familiar foods toddlers naturally prefer. Pairing vegetable salad with cheese, for example, is a great combination for toddler taste buds.
Switch it up
Expose kids to new foods in different ways. If a picky eater doesn’t like a food one way, he or she may like it another way. For example, your child may dislike boiled meat but may love fried. If it won’t cost you a tooth, you can provide a roasted piece for the child, at mealtime. You cannot handle all their preferences; you should only curtail it when you think it’s unnecessary and they’re going overboard with it. It’s also best to rotate the types of food provided to help avoid monotony and food jags — when a child is stuck on one food item meal after meal.
Keep in mind that picky eating usually is a normal developmental stage for children and try not to get frustrated by this typical toddler behavior. Just do your best to patiently guide them on their path toward healthy eating.
Nevertheless, if your picky eater’s diet starts becoming worrisome, talk with your pediatrician, who can help troubleshoot and make sure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients to grow and develop properly.