Picky eating is when a child (or adult) refuses or develops specific food eating choices. Picky eaters generally manifests their habit around the first year, when the children are beginning to feed themselves. It usually peaks during the toddler-hood or pre-school years and results in the parents to be concerned for their child’s growth and development.
It is important for the parents to understand that it is a time when their child is undergoing various changes, and may require some consistency in their habit.
Given below are certain measures that can be taken in order to deal with children who are picky eaters:
Involvement of Children during shopping
* Take the help of your child while shopping, make sure they pick healthy food. They can also help you in preparing the meal for example small tasks like cleaning, measuring, pouring or even setting up the table can initiate their interest in eating the healthy food.
* Make sure you are not a picky eater yourself. As a parent, you should set a good example yourself by eating a range of nutritious food. This will more likely result in your child to eat and enjoy the food.
Give time to your Children
* Be patient when introducing new food, children require repeated exposure before they eat it. You can encourage them by presenting the food with different colours, shapes or design.
Creativity in Food
* Be more creative and make eating fun. You can use ketchup or jam with chapati or healthy dips like yogurt or mayonnaise to encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables
* When dealing with toddlers, it is recommended to offer a spoon, in order to make them feel in control. Also allowing them to serve themselves with little assistance, or even asking them where they want the food to go in their plate.
* You should respect your child’s appetite, do not force them to finish off their plate or nag them to eat. They might develop a more picky eating habit or this may even decrease their self esteem. They can become anxious or frustrated being controlled for such habits.
* Do not promote picky eating by preparing a separate meal immediately for your child. Instead encourage them to stay at the table for the designated meal time. Provide another meal after they have waited for some time, so the next time they are more likely to eat for what is offered to them.
Different Dishes for choices
* Make sure that you include at least one of their favourite dish, but ask them to try other dishes too. This way can develop the taste for the dishes they don’t like. Additionally, introducing new dishes when children are very hungry can at times have a positive impact.
Avoid Deals with children
* You should avoid making deals in order to promote healthy eating habits, it may only work for some time. At a longer run, it doesn’t make the required healthy changes within the children. Desserts should be treated as a part of meal and not reward after meal.
If you think that picky eating is compromising your child’s growth and development, consult your child’s doctor. They will help you make the required changes for your child’s growth and development, making sure that they get all the essential nutrients they need. It is noteworthy that such habits won’t change immediately, and would require daily efforts to achieve the long term goal of adapting a healthy eating habit for your child.
Dr. Nisha Khanna is a renowned expert in relationship counselling.