Fussy eaters tend to sound something like this, “I only want Pasta” or “I’m not eating that.” For any parent, one of the common woes will be “My child is a fussy eater”. The toddler years are the most challenging ones when it comes to feeding. What to do? Don’t panic. It is just a phase though a difficult one, but you can surely lighten up the burden by implementing the tips given below for a picky eater.
Reasons for children being fussy eaters:
Why your kid says “No” to the food you offer? Or why he/she has a liking for certain foods and fussy about others? The simplest reason for this issue is that your child has gained control over you. While most of the things in life are still in control of the parents like where they sit, what to wear, sleeping time, meal times etc. but not this one. The change in behavior happens between the ages of 13- 19 months of child development.
Kids can become fussy eaters for various reasons:
• They are naturally sensitive towards texture, smell, and taste
• There is gastroesophageal reflux which is a common problem in babies
• You always provide processed food as an alternative
• You force your kid to eat a lot
• You go with the concept “maybe once in a while junk is okay”
• Vomiting is another reason, where your child has difficulty in chewing food. The vomiting is a biological coping mechanism.
• New flavors and textures can be exciting for many kids but for others, it’s a struggle
Tips to handle fussy eaters:
It is probably not about finishing the last two bites of green peas, it is probably important for kids to develop healthy eating habits from a very young age. But, when this doesn’t happen, and your kid has turned into a fussy eater, it is time to implement these tips.
1. Giving them independence with food:
You can come up with healthy food options for your child. Offer your child with a wide range of healthy food options rather limiting the choices to 2 or 3 things. This way your child can get a better scope to experience the foods he wants to have. Another tip is to involve them in your food preparation activities like decorating the salad dish, picking the recipe for their favorite days, washing vegetables and fruits, grocery shopping.
2. Make meal-time pleasant:
Avoid distractions during meals. Ideally, it should be a family sitting together during meals. The conversation should be pleasant; the dining space should be bright and clean. Meal-time is not the right time for arguing, fighting or watching television.
3. Reward, don’t bribe:
If your child is refusing to eat food, that’s okay – you can offer it to him/her another time. Bribing your child with some other food treats can lead to unhealthy eating habits. For e.g. “Eat the green peas and you can have the chocolate cake.” Instead, reward your child with stickers or badges of appreciation for completing the food. And when they have collected enough of the stickers, reward them with a prize. Bribing certainly sends a wrong message that eating healthy food is a chore.
4. Don’t force a child to eat:
You will see many people suffering from long-lasting physical /emotional consequences, and have grown to be obese because they were asked to finish their food forcibly. This ultimately results in the habit of overeating. Do not encourage your child to overeat or if they are not comfortable with eating at that time.
5. Don’t expect kids to eat what you want:
Everyone has their own food preferences. So, if you don’t like cabbage hence you are not preparing cabbage, therefore, your child doesn’t get to know what cabbage is. You kid never gets to eat cabbage. Model behavior that you want your child to practice. It means, if you want your kids to have a healthy diet then you should be willing to stretch your food choices accordingly.
6. Repeat Offerings:
If your child is not in a mood to eat veggies for the first time, try serving it another day. It may happen that your kid didn’t develop the taste in the first place, prepare it in some other way and serve it. You would notice, your child might be more willing to take a bite or more. If your child didn’t eat, don’t let him/her enjoy chocolates, or popcorn later in the night. Rather serve the food which he/she didn’t eat.
7. Offer Condiments:
Sometimes, your kid needs to eat a spinach salad with a bit of salad dressing or eat sweet potatoes veggie with ketchup. Do not restrict them in doing that, eventually, you will see that they are limiting the use of it and eating the food items without them.
8. Remember these stages are normal:
It is very common for the kids to be fussy eaters. As per child psychology, over 30% of the kids between ages 1.5 – 5 years old are picky eaters. Children tend to be picky eater between ages 2 to 4. If he/she doesn’t outgrow that habit you must talk to your pediatrician about it.
Fussy eating facts:
All kids are different, and all of them have unique abilities and weakness to deal with. Some children tend to be fussy eaters, but there are valid reasons behind it and interesting facts to ponder.
1. Super-tasters do exist:
The kids who are supertasters can taste everything strongly than an average person. They have that overwhelming sense of taste that makes them picky eaters.
2. Mommy’s diet can make your kid picky:
There are pieces of evidence suggesting that the food a pregnant mom eats can affect the taste of her milk. So for e.g., if a mom ate lots of veggies and fruits while she was nursing her kid may end up with the same taste and the kid is seen keen towards those food items than others.
3. It is not about the taste only:
It’s not how the food tastes but how it looks matters the most to the kid. The spaghetti looks like a group of snails which might lose their interest in wanting things to eat.
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This is especially advisable if children show extreme reactions to foods they have an aversion that they had to enjoy or suddenly don’t enjoy. The doctor is there to help you determine these issues and may refer to you a health care professional that specializes in eating issues.