Is picky eating a cause for concern?
Are you the parent of a toddler who is also a picky eater? Most toddlers go through at least a brief phase where they are very picky about what they will eat. Some children remain picky eaters through a large portion of their childhood. Most recent studies though have reported that even picky eaters are getting enough variety to meet their daily nutritional needs. There are a few tips and tricks that you can use to help combat picky eating.
Just try one bite. The one bite rule has been around as long as there have been parents and children. Expecting a child to eat an entire serving of something unfamiliar may be over-reaching just a tad. Children may have to taste a food as many as ten times before they decide that they like it so don't be discouraged if they dislike it on the first try.
Avoid main dishes you know your child will not like. Lots of children do not like for their foods to be mixed together, and some are so extreme as to not want their foods to touch. For this reason avoiding casseroles may be a good idea. Some children also do not enjoy very spicy foods so you may want to avoid those as well. When serving new foods try topping it with a food you know they like. Sprinkle some cheese on top of vegetables, or try putting yogurt or peanut butter on top of fruit.
Make meals pleasant. Try to make meals with your child as enjoyable as possible. Serve at least one food that you know your child will eat, and don’t harp on what they will not eat. That makes the meal disagreeable for everyone! Serve your child's dinner on a special plate just for them. If your child is one who does not like for their food to touch make sure that you get the divided ones.
Make portion sizes appropriate. Remember that toddlers only need between 1,000 to 1,300 calories each day. You also need to keep in mind that some days your child will eat more than they do on other days, and that it is perfectly normal. Keep in mind that toddlers have a tendency to binge on certain foods. They may eat nothing but fruit for a week and the next week they might not even touch fruit but eat only vegetables instead.
Serve up variety. Make sure that you offer a variety of foods at each meal. Serving up your child’s favorite food is fine, but make sure to offer other choices as well. Are your meals boring, or do the lack a variety of color? If you think that your meals are boring chances are that your child does too. When you go to the grocery store take your child with you and ask them what they would like to eat. Let your child pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try like a mango or cauliflower.
Let them help. Let your toddler help out when you are grocery shopping and preparing meals. Involving your child in the making of meals can make it personal for them, and they will enjoy eating what they have helped you to prepare. Letting them help can be as simple as having them stir something, or getting an item out of the refrigerator for you. Spreading peanut butter on bread or cheese on crackers is another way that you can let them help prepare their own meals. They will be so excited when you sit down to eat to tell the rest of the family how they helped.
Make a list. Make a list of the foods that your child likes and dislikes. Look at the list and see if there is anything that foods they like or dislike have in common. Some children take a long time before they develop a taste for meat, and others simply don’t like certain textures.
Make meal time fun. Present a variety of shapes and colors on your child’s plate. Even a peanut butter sandwich can be made special if you use a cookie cutter to give it a shape. You can also use cookie cutters to make shaped pancakes. To add a little extra nutritional value to your pancakes add in a little pureed fruit to the batter. Try using celery, peanut butter and raisins to make ants on a log.
There are a lot of ways that you can encourage your child to eat more. When arranging your child's plate make faces or other designs with the food. Allow your child to "play" with their food if it encourages them to eat. For example, cut cheese into small cubes and allow your child to stack them or let them make a necklace from Cheerios and string. Eating is not the only way to get nutrition into your child. Making smoothies or juice at home is an excellent way to get nutrient dense foods like spinach, and kale mixed with an assortment of fruits and other vegetables into your child.
Teaching your child to eat when they are hungry is extremely important. One way that you can encourage this is to allow them to have a space of their own in the refrigerator. Keep a variety of healthy foods in their space like yogurt, cheese cubes, and appropriately sized pieces of fruits and vegetables. When your child is hungry and ready for a snack let them go into the refrigerator and choose one for themselves.
Generally, a picky eater is not a cause for concern. As long as your child is continuing to grow and not losing weight you probably don’t need to worry. If your child has started losing weight, vomiting after meals, gagging, or having difficulty swallowing you should have them checked out. Your pediatrician will be happy to discuss any nutritional concerns you have about your child, and they probably have some good ideas on how to encourage your child to eat as well.
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