You’ve tried your best, but your little one’s still not touching the food on his or her plate. Mealtimes can be frustrating when you have a picky eater.
I feel you. I’ve been there.
But don’t fret, I’m dishing out expert-recommended and personally-tested tips to help you.
Make mealtimes fun and enjoyable.
Try to avoid power struggles. There are three things you’re responsible for when it comes to feeding your child: what, where, and when. How much and whether to eat the food is up to your child.
When you try to force your child to eat more, eating becomes a negative experience. According to experts, this can lead to weight or eating problems later in life. Furthermore, this can make them pickier and consume less.
Take the pressure off and make eating together pleasant.
Keep introducing new foods and exciting textures to your picky eater
Did you know that it can take about 8 to 15 exposures before a picky eater can accept new foods? So, you’d need to be patient and just keep offering.
Sometimes they would only touch or smell their food— consider it a success! At least, they’re interested.
The other day, I just put some munggo (mung bean) soup on the side of my daughter’s plate. I had been offering it to her many times since she started eating solids. I was pleasantly surprised when she suddenly dipped her finger into the dish.
“It’s good!” she said and asked for some to mix with the rice. We also had some fried fish then.
I also noticed that my picky eater opted for crunchy foods. So, what I did was come up with fruits and veggies that we’re fried. I’ve tried cauliflower pops, tostones (fried bananas), and sweet potato fries.
Prepare, cook and eat together
I noticed that when my daughter and I cook together, she became curious and more excited to try what we’ve prepared. For example, she’ll be in charge of getting the leaves off the stalk and washing them. Sometimes, she’d put some malunggay powder into the sauce.
Besides bonding with her, I save time in the kitchen!
Interestingly, research shows that kids taking part in meal preparation are more likely to eat veggies and calories than those who aren’t.
Remember, you are in charge.
It may be tempting to give in to hotdogs, biscuits and other processed foods, but we need to model healthy eating behavior. Maybe they’re okay, once in a while.
And oh, experts say that we shouldn’t prep something just for our picky eater. My daughter used to ask for mac and cheese and I must admit, I caved in almost all the time.
These days, there are choices on the table, and I don’t cater to her ‘request’ that often anymore. I do admit though, I still go for it and try to place some squash in there.
Make food presentation creative.
They say kids eat with their eyes. And it’s true! Sometimes my daughter would like heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.
My good friend Sabs loves making bentos for her daughter. And I’ll share with you a few of her lunch ideas. They’re so cute!
Follow #sabsimbento on IG to see more of her creations! I’m hoping she has a workshop soon.
I also met Fatima whose son goes to the same school as my daughter. She loves doing bento. Follow her account SethsBento on IG for fun and creative ideas!
Practice mindful eating
When my daughter was a toddler, we used to propped her in front of the TV while eating — big mistake! As she grew up, it took her almost 45 minutes to an hour to finish a meal.
Mindful eating involves being present during mealtime and avoiding distractions such as the TV and gadgets.
By the way, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to know that we’re full. So now, we give ourselves time to eat. We used to eat in a hurry because we might be late for school.
Now, I make sure that we have enough time in her morning routine for a whole meal.
Ask for professional help
While picky eating may be common in young kids, there are certain things to watch out for. When you observe the following red flags in your child, it’s a good idea to seek out a specialist:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Abnormally slow growth and development
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Crying when eating, indicating pain
- Difficulty chewing
- Anxiety, aggression, sensory reactivity or repetitive behaviors, which can indicate autism
It’s also advisable to talk to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns. Your doctor can monitor your child’s growth and development and provide helpful information.
The bottom line is, it takes patience and persistence for us to help our kids overcome picky eating.
You’re not alone.
In the long run, it’s about the pleasure of eating and nourishing our bodies with healthy food.
Do you have choosy eaters too? What did you do?