Persuading The Picky Eater
There are some toddlers who eagerly reach out for new, healthy food. Then there are toddlers who insist on eating only junk food or nothing at all. Most new parents hope their toddlers will fall into the former group but in all probability they will better fit the latter. And therein lies the fine line between giving your child what he wants and what he needs.
There are many different feeding behavior. Some will only eat food of a certain colour, type or group. Others will insist on the same meal three times a day, everyday. And then there are those who are more interested in playing than sitting down for a snack.
Many parents approach meal times bracing for an inevitable bout of tantrums from their child or their own patience snapping. But take heart; this is perfectly understandable.
A parent's primary role is to raise a happy and healthy child, one who is well-nourished and well-developed both physically and mentally. You have no doubt taken great pains to research the right kinds of food for your child, prepare it in the healthiest way and present it creatively. But he still won't eat. At this point the easiest route is to just give in to his demands and let him eat whatever his little heart desires.
Big mistake. Parents can let their child choose the clothes they wear, not the food they eat. So your modus operandi is to figure out why your child isn't eating and how to change that.
Picky eaters have many reasons for not wanting to move the food from plate to mouth. One of those reasons could be that he wants to exert authority and not because he actually dislikes a particular food. This type of picky eater is most likely to explode when offered something other than his favorite food such as nuggets or chocolate.
Parents who prefer to avoid confrontations will give up after the first two refusals. But Linda Piette, nutritionist and author of Just Two More Bites
says that children need to be offered something at least 10 times before they can actually taste it. She suggests introducing the new food among familiar ones and keep trying gently.
If your child gags each time he eats something new, especially meat, it could just mean he is an inexperienced chewer. This type prefers meltable or crunchy carbohydrates which have a single texture and are easy to eat.
For active and playful children, meal times simply just don't fit into their hectic lifestyle. Like adults on the go, snacking is always the better and more interesting option for them so set a few snack times and lay the food out on the table. Don't worry if a few snack times pass with the food untouched. When your child is hungry he will reach for it without thinking.
Another way to make food more attractive is to demonstrate its physical properties. For instance bang a carrot on a table and talk about how strong teeth can break it apart or how yoghurt can easily be sucked down because it is so smooth.
Toddlers who push their food around the plate after the first mouthful, even if it is their favourite food, may just be full from too many snacks. So cut back on the number of snack times, the snack quantity or substitute cookies with apple slices instead.
Sometimes you may have to also rethink your meal time strategies. Is the television on during meal time? This won't distract your toddler into eating as you hope but overstimulate him and make him more reluctant to focus on eating during mealtimes.
Eat as a family so children are more likely to relax and experiment with new food if they see their parents and siblings enjoying it. Eating alone will make a child aware that you are monitoring his pickiness and make him too nervous to eat.
Also beware what you are communicating to your children about your least favourite food. If your child sees you rejecting spinach for example, he may develop a negative impression of it or think he is exempt from eating it too.
Give cake and ice-cream the green light instead of offering it as a reward. The reward tactic could backfire as a child may end up disliking the food he has to eat before getting his "prize". Instead make ice-cream a regular part of the meal by introducing it as dessert.
The dinner table is also a great place to indulge in food play. Allow your child to touch his food so that he can figure out which ones are easier to eat first. The inevitable messiness will be a small price to pay for a clean plate.
In battling your picky eater's behaviour, you could also consider a complete nutritional supplement that offers all the essential nutrients your child needs for proper growth and development. This supplement should contain micro and macro-nutrients like iron, calcium, protein and other vitamins and minerals.
Once your child's paediatrician has granted you permission to put him on a supplement, you might want to try PediaSure Complete. Its formula contains new triple protein complex that provides a scientifically balanced blend of all essential amino acids for catch-up growth, advanced carbohydrate blend, unique lipid profile and MCTs.
The advanced carbohydrate blend provides maximum digestion and absorption for balanced energy release. The unique lipid profile and MCTs, on the other hand, support excellent nutrition absorption and is now complemented with AA and DHA.
And that's not all. PediaSure Complete also contains 25 essential vitamins and minerals and protein content to meet 100% or more of US DRIS for children aged one to 10-years-old.
These combinations are scientifically proven to assure an increased weight and height between 60 and 90 days, a higher absorption of iron and zinc within 90 days and a stronger immune system (Alarcon, 2003). PediaSure Complete even caters to lactose intolerant children and those who refuse to eat anything at all.
A parent's job is to provide a child with the best food possible. When and how much that food is eaten is up to the child. But you can always offer a helping hand with a nutritious supplement that tastes good and delivers all the nutrients of the untouched food on the table.