Managing a “fussy” eater involves a division of responsibility
- The parent is responsible for the “what, when, and where” of feeding
- The child is responsible for the “how much” and “whether” of eating
Children's nutrition doesn't have to be frustrating. Consider these strategies to avoid power struggles and help the picky eater in your family eat a balanced diet.
- Respect your child's appetite — or lack of one
- If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack.
- Don't bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate.
- Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child.
- Provide more food if it is requested.
- Provide a relaxed eating environment.
- Stick to the routine
- Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day.
- Don’t serve the same item two days in a row and deliberately rotate through
different tastes and textures.
- Provide juice or milk with the food, and offer water between meals and snacks.
- Don’t allow your child to fill up on juice or milk throughout the day as this might decrease his or her appetite for meals.
- FOOD CURFEW: Clearly define eating and non-eating times. Don’t let your toddler eat on demand.
- A mild distraction helps for some kids – not TV, but coloring book, storytelling etc. may help a hyperactive child eat well. No mobiles or distractions for moms too!
- Be patient with new foods
- Don’t ask your child to eat new foods! Ask them to taste a pea-sized sample and describe what they’ve tasted instead. Give them the option to spit it (in a tissue) or swallow it. Let them ask for more ☺
- Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite.
- Encourage your child by talking about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture, and not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child's favorite foods.
- Try eating new stuff yourself, your child may follow.
- Make it fun
- Allow children to put favorite sauces on foods.
- Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters.
- Serve a variety of brightly colored foods.
- Kids can’t eat what isn’t being served! The more frequently you expose your kids to fruits and vegetables the more normal these foods will seem.
- Let your little one add ingredients to dishes, sprinkle herbs or stir in the milk.
- Measuring out a teaspoon of liquid is good balancing practice and adding four teaspoons calls on counting skills, too.
- Recruit your child's help
- At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.
- Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat!
- At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, or set the table.
- Set a good example
- If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit!
- Minimize distractions
- Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals.
- Don’t let your child eat alone.
- Don't be a short-order cook
- Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating.
- Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat.
- Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
- Redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
- Reduce temptation
- Try not to keep junk food around the house.
- If you want to keep some snacks, try using a Snack Jar to limit intake of these around mealtime.
- Shouting makes it harder all round
- Angry discipline is wrong discipline.
If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your child's doctor. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days. The big picture might help ease your worries. A food log can also help your child's doctor determine any problems.
NOTE: Remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating ☺
- Coping with a Fussy Eater, http://www.supernanny.co.uk
- Children's nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters, http://www.mayoclinic.com
- ITS NOT ABOUT NUTRITION, THE ART AND SCIENCE OF TEACHING KIDS TO EAT RIGHT, http://itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace.com
- Feeding Picky Eaters, Ruth Carey, RD, CSSD, LD, June 24th, 2008 Nebraska School Food Service Association
- Putting the Pleasure Back into Family Meals, www.ellynsatter.com