Dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating, but you may be making the following mistakes that are only reinforcing your child’s pickiness.
With that being said, however, there are a few things parents can and should do to encourage their children to eat a wide variety of foods, or at least try something to discover whether they like it or not. Conversely, there are also things parents shouldn’t be doing when it comes to building their child’s eating habits, as it may be reinforcing picky eating problems that can carry on well past toddlerhood. Read on to discover the mistakes you may be making when it comes to your child’s eating.
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Be Diverse & Don’t Only Offer The Same Foods
Just like adults get bored of constantly eating the same thing, so do kids! So, if your child is consistently being fed the same meals and they’re becoming more resistant to finishing their full plate, consider spicing up the variety. Not only will introducing your child to a variety of food make things exciting for them, but it will encourage them to be more adventurous with their eating habits.
BabyGaga recently had the chance to speak to Rachael Janas, a registered dietitian and the Nutrition & Regulatory Affairs Manager and Registered Dietitian for Nurture Life about mistakes parents make when developing their children’s eating habits. She says that avoiding repetition is key.
“One of the easiest and most common mistakes parents make is feeding their children the same handful of foods over and over again and not exposing their children to new foods,” Janas told BabyGaga. “Continually introduce new foods to your child, including ingredients, flavors, textures and more, starting from the very early ages, to help prevent picky eating.”
A willingness to try new foods will benefit them (and you!) well into the future, so consider introducing a diverse palette of foods to your child as soon as they’re able to eat solids. When introducing a new food, offer it in small portions to ensure your child enjoys it and to also mitigate the risk of a potential allergic reaction. If there is a history of a specific type of food allergy in the family, consult your child’s paediatrician before introducing said food to them to ensure their safety.
Don’t Overwhelm Your Child With Big Portions Of New Food
As was mentioned, it’s best to introduce new foods to your child in smaller portions. This isn’t just to mitigate the risk of an allergic reaction or so that they don’t end up wasting food. It’s important not to overwhelm your child. Especially if they’ve been very picky with what they’ll eat recently, seeing a plate full of completely new food may be intimidating. The child may outright refuse to eat the food without even trying it simply because they don’t like how it looks.
Janas explains the introducing new food in a small portion or even as a side dish will encourage your child to try it out. It’s even best to surround the new food item with familiar favorites – that way, you’ll know your child will eat at least a little. In short, don’t be aggressive when trying to challenge your child’s picky eating.
“Try to be as stealth as possible. Rather than serving a meal with all new components of flavors your child has never seen before, consider serving a main and a side that are picky eater tried and true, paired with a new side,” Janas explained. “For example, if your child eats chicken breast and rice with ease, add in a new veggie they haven’t seen. Talk to them about what is on their plate and make it more of an interactive experience rather than a demand that they eat it.”
Don’t Always Expect Your Child To Finish All Of Their Food
If you consistently expect your child to finish their entire plate, then both of you may be sitting at the table for hours. Especially if you’re offering your child something completely new, they may only want to take a couple bites out of it, even if they end up loving it eventually. Janas reminds parents to be patient when it comes to their little one. Getting frustrated or upset will only do the same to your child. “Most likely your child will have minimal to zero bites of that new food on attempt #1, however, come attempt #12 or so, you’ll start to see progress,” Janas explained to BabyGaga. “Be patient. You are doing what is best for your child in the long run.”
Don’t Give Up Too Easily Or Lose Your Temper
The worst things parents can do is to give up or lose their temper! Children are extremely sensitive to the feelings of their parents, and even if you think you’re hiding it well, they can likely tell when you’re feeling frustrated towards them. Dealing with a picky eater can be challenging – especially when you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating a delicious meal. But simply feeding a rambunctious toddler takes patience, let alone one that is being picky about what they eat.
This doesn’t just apply to in the moment – it’s something parents need to incorporate in the long-run. Even if your child doesn’t seem to like a particular food in one instance, it’s important to try it again with them. Wait a couple days or even weeks, then try the food again. The incredible thing about young kids is that they seem to love something on one day and then hate it the next, or vice versa.
“One of the most difficult, yet most important things is for parents to not give up. We see so many parents cave to their children’s picky eating habits for fear of their child not eating, or for an easy way out,” Janas explained. “It is hard, but our advice for parents is to try to get to a place where you’re ok with your children saying no to a particular food, allowing them to not eat it, and still continue to offer it again and again rather than avoid because ‘my child doesn’t like it.’ In the long run, you’ll be creating a much healthier eating foundation for your child, developing a more expansive palate and also ensuring your child gets the balanced nutrition they need, which is critical for their growth and development.”
Dealing with a picky eater is frustrating for all involved – parents and child included. But it’s important to reassess your actions and see in what ways you may be contributing to your child’s picky eating. Only then can you begin taking the steps to cure them of their pickiness. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, but practice certainly makes perfect.
NEXT: 10 Healthy Snacks Your Picky Toddler Will Love
Sources: Nurture Life, Positive Parenting Solutions, CBC,
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