Dealing With Your Childs Picky Eating Habits
It can be frustrating when your child wants to eat the same thing every day - but it's not uncommon. Some children are picky by nature, but there are things you can do to encourage your child to try at least a few bites of nutritious food at each meal. Look for recipes that contain ingredients your child likes and include her in the preparation. Being part of the grocery shopping, cooking, and serving may help keep her interested.
Here are some tics:
- Serve a variety of good foods for your toddler to eat at each meal. When you do offer a new food, simply place it on your child's highchair tray without making a a big deal about it. Make sure the food you choose is age-appropriate.
- Introduce new foods one at a time and in small amounts. Instead of offering an entire meal of unfamiliar foods, for example, offer standard fare or favorites along with something new. Always offer a meal that includes at least one thing you know your toddler likes. And try to schedule a new food when you know your child is hungry — a snack of mango slices when he has the afternoon munchies, for example.
- Use toddler-size portions. A serving of bread for a 1-year-old is only 1/4 slice, and a serving of rice, potatoes, or pasta is only about 2 tablespoons — much smaller than an adult serving size.
- Understand that some children's palates are more sensitive than others' and they simply won't like the texture, color, or taste of some foods. That's why a child might claim to dislike a food he has never even tried. Likewise, some children may reject a food because it reminds them of a time when they were sick, or because they have some other negative association with it.
- Look for ways to boost the nutritional value of the dishes your toddler enjoys. Add some wheat germ or tuna to his macaroni casserole and little chunks of fruit to his favorite cereal, for example.
- Resist the urge to offer sugary foods in an effort to get your toddler to eat more. You want to develop his sense of culinary adventure, not his sweet tooth!
- Minimize distractions at the table. If a sibling is running around nearby, or a cartoon beckons from across the room, your toddler may have trouble maintaining interest in the food being served. Try to make meals relaxed and quiet.
Case study & suggestion by experts:
For parents of picky eaters, mealtimes often turn into battles, and parents may despair that they'll ever be able to convince their children to eat a wider variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. To get your child to eat more types of food, forget nagging or bribes - dish up plenty of fruit and veggie servings for yourself, say researchers from the Pennsylvania State University in University Park who studied the dietary patterns of a group of girls and their moms.
In the study, 173 9-year-old girls and their moms completed surveys when the girls were 7 and 9 years old. When their daughters were 7, the moms recorded their own food intake, including how many fruit and vegetable servings they usually ate each day. The mothers also noted to what extent they pressured their daughters to eat by agreeing or disagreeing with statements like, "My child should always eat all of the food on her plate," and "If my child says 'I'm not hungry,' I try to get her to eat anyway."
When the girls were 9, mothers recorded the types and amounts of foods their daughters ate for three 24-hour periods. Moms also noted whether they thought their daughters were picky eaters. At 9 years of age, the girls in the study were also weighed, measured, and underwent body fat testing.
The results? Moms who ate more servings of fruits and vegetables said they were less likely to pressure their daughters to eat. In addition, these moms had daughters who ate more fruits and vegetables and who were considered less picky overall. In contrast, perceived picky eaters ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables (although they also ate fewer fats and sweets).
Most of the girls in the study, though, didn't get the recommended amount of fiber, and their intake of calcium, vitamin E, and magnesium typically fell below the recommended levels. Girls who ate more fruits and vegetables took in significantly more fiber than picky eaters.
What this means to you? According to the results of this study, the nutritional example you set for your child may affect his or her eating habits. Eating lots of fruit and vegetable servings yourself may encourage your child to eat these foods, too. How many servings should your child be consuming each day? Ensure your child eats plenty of produce by offering three to five vegetable servings and two to four fruit servings daily.