At the age of 2 or 3, kids have had clear preferences of food, and it can be quite difficult to change that. Therefore, if you find your children picky eating, you will need to look into it and act as soon as possible. Or else, it is more likely for your children to remain that way.
Fussy eater vs picky eater
Fussy eaters reject foods that they like today, but then happily accept and finish the foods the next. As for picky eaters, they are selective about what they eat. When this happens, your children will miss out on certain nutrients in their diet, and in the long run may impact on their growth and development, immunity and even emotional wellbeing. Studies even showed that having a nutritionally unbalanced diet may affect your kids’ performance in school.
So, how can parents deal with picky eaters?
1. Start young
Healthy eating education is a major movement the Japanese government has invested in for years. They recognize the importance of education to help children learn about eating a balanced diet and nutrition to help lower the risk of lifestyle-related diseases. As the children are used to eating a wide variety of foods, they are less likely to be picky eaters. This should also be implemented in our homes, and to start from young. At the same time, parents should be the role models themselves, you don’t want your kids to feel punished when you make them eat veggies and you are eating the cheeseburger, right?
2. Find out the reasons
Through observation and good communication, parents can figure out reasons kids are refusing the food and find ways to solve the issue. For instance, maybe your children don’t like the taste and texture of the food. You can easily alter that by using different cooking methods, or cut them into smaller pieces and blend them with other foods kids like.
3. Provide a conducive dining environment
The atmosphere at the dining table can affect an adult’s mood, moreover a sensitive and delicate child. It is important to first remove distracting factors during meal times, including digital devices, like your television and mobile phones. Your children will more likely enjoy the meal if their parents spend the time to eat with them, which is also an excellent time for catching up. Placing different foods on the dining table, even though your children may not eat them all, helps expose them to a wide array of food choices, which may lead to interest to have them next time.
4. No forcing
It is fine for parents to offer and encourage their children to try foods they are not familiar or dislike, but be prepared to get rejected, and to be patient. Children may need multiple attempts before accepting a new food into their diet, which is normal. If refused, parents can express interest to the food instead and eat it in front of your children, this will help trigger their interest. Avoid scolding, reprimanding or forcing them to accept foods they dislike, as this leads to tension and strains on the family relationship. Avoid rewarding or calming your children with snacks, they will think snacks are good, and more likely lose interest in other foods. Kids just need some quality time with you, how about rewarding them by bringing them to the park for a picnic, or tell them a bedtime story instead?
5. Increase their willingness to try new foods
When preparing foods, using foods with different colours and presenting them in a visually interesting way, like arranging them into cute patterns can help trigger your kids’ interest in trying them. You can also involve your kids during menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation, kids will feel some ownership over the meal, which makes them more likely to eat it.
Getting a picky eater to eat a nutritious meal doesn’t have to be a battle, with some patience, good communication, and thoughtful strategies, you can help your children to have a healthy relationship with foods.