Got a picky eater on your hands? You’re not alone! Studies estimate that as many as 50 per cent of young children are labelled picky eaters by their caregivers. Unfortunately, the problem persists for many kids, often with no end in sight. This can cause a great deal of stress and frustration for parents, who feel helpless and unsure about what to do.
Transforming your child from finicky to foodie won’t happen overnight, but there are important steps you can take as a parent to steer them in the right direction. Here are 5 things you can start doing now to improve your child’s eating, or possibly avoid having a picky eater altogether:
- DO NOT give up on a food because your child appears not to like it. Studies show that children sometimes need up to 15 (or more!) exposures to a food before they eventually like it. Parents often wrongly assume that their child dislikes a particular food (especially ‘yucky’ foods like brussels sprouts and lima beans), limiting the child’s opportunity to accept it.
- DO involve your child in meal preparation. Whether it’s deciding what to make, selecting the ingredients or putting it all together, children who are involved in the process are more likely to take interest in eating it. Ok so enlisting your toddler in the kitchen is no easy feat, but their participation can come in many forms. Trust me, the extra time and effort will pay off.
- DO NOT limit the menu to foods you know your child will eat. This is a common trap parents fall into and a surefire way to further limit their food repertoire. Offer several choices, and yes sometimes that will include their known favourites, but be sure to vary meals from day to day. The more you cater to your child’s limited preferences, the less opportunity they have to accept new foods. If you’re unsure how much your toddler should be eating every day, grab this free cheat sheet!
- DO provide structure with meal and snack times. Another mistake made by many parents of ‘picky eaters’ is allowing them to snack throughout the day, often a reaction to them having skipped a meal. While this way of eating works for some adults, it takes away from a child’s opportunity to build their eating competence. Scheduled meals and snacks (within a window of time – no need to be incredibly rigid) allows children to predict and anticipate when they will be eating.
- DO NOT force your child to eat. If you enter that power struggle, I can assure you, you’ll lose. Toddlers in particular are fierce opponents at this game. And then there are the little preschooler lawyers – good luck with them. Remember, your kid’s health and nutritional wellbeing does not depend on that one mouthful or meal. The goal is to create a positive feeding experience, not a negative and stressful one. Move away from short-term thinking (bite by bite) and think about the big picture.
Feeding your little one isn’t always a walk in the park, but try to sit back, take a deep breath, and be patient. Remember that learning how (and what) to eat is a skill much like any other. Just as you wouldn’t lose your cool if your son or daughter took some time to learn to riding a bike, all is not lost because he or she isn’t yet chowing down on a plate of brussels sprouts.
Feeling like you need a bit more support with feeding your child? Book your Free 15-Minute Call today to find out how we can help!