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How To Handle Picky Eaters?

Providing proper nutrition to children is of great importance, be it an infant or a teenager. Food with a good nutrient value enhances the proper growth and development of the child. Picky eating is a habit when a child refuses food or often eats the same food. It usually peaks in the toddlers and pre-school going kids. Parents often get worried about these habits as the child, if not eating well is deprived of many nutrients which are necessary for proper growth and development.

How To Handle Picky Eaters?

Why Kids Become Fussy When It Comes To Food?

  • Kids have an inclination towards sweet flavor which is why they mostly refuse the food which is bland or bitter in taste.
  • Maybe the child is not hungry. A kid, if snacks on a cracker or a juice one hour before eating a meal would obviously not feel hungry.
  • Many kids while growing want to assert their independence. Saying ‘No’ to a meal is a way to feel ‘in control’. It is a natural part of the development and we should know how to deal with it.
  • There can be a medical problem such as food allergy or sensory processing disorder (a problem with the brain in interpreting information from her senses). Some children also find it difficult to swallow or digest food.
  • Most of the time parent set up their expectation level on how much a child needs to eat at a particular time. This is very unrealistic and makes them feel anxious at meal time.

How To Handle Picky Eaters?

Following are the various ways on how such picky eaters can be managed and how to make them appreciate and eat what is on the plate for them instead of struggling with it.

  1. Make eating fun. Introduce various vegetable with your child’s favorite dip or sauce. Serve it in various shapes and colors.
  2. Introduce new food with patience. A child should never be forced to eat when food is just introduced. When forced, the child develops an aversion for that particular food as he connects it with a lot of struggle and irritation. Talk to the kid about the foods, its color, taste, aroma, and start giving them a few tiny bites. It is possible the child might spit it out a few times but will slowly develop the taste.
  3. Respecting a child’s appetite or lack of one is of great importance. We should never force a child for food when he is not hungry or never force them to eat up whatever in on the plate for them. If forced several times they start relating meal time with anxiety, frustration and will start running away from it. They might even become less sensitive to hunger. Serve small portions and give them an opportunity to ask for more if they feel like.
  4. Sticking to a routine for meals and snacks is also of great importance. As a regular time is developed, the child will be hungry at that particular time and would eat well. Serve whole fruit juices along with meals. In between drinking water is also necessary.
  5. If we eat healthily, the child is likely to develop the same habit. Set an example for your child. Eat a range of healthy food yourself. A study shows that a child’s food preferences and their diets reflect the foods that are available and accessible to them, in which parental modeling and familiarity plays an important role.(1)
  6. Some of the pediatricians recommend setting aside the distractions at mealtime. Television and mobiles should be turned off and should not be used as a help.
  7. Never cook separately for a kid even if the child is not eating. Make him sit along with the family during dinner time. Introduce him with various foods explaining their benefits.
  8. Also, track your child’s food sensitivities. Keep them in mind while preparing foods. Some kids do not love mushy food. In this case offer apple slice rather than apple sauce. If you want your child to eat mushy food give him a cracker with a dip. Probably he will develop the taste gradually.

Remember a child’s eating habit won’t change immediately or as and when we want them to. Let them take their time but keep it healthy.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 12, 2023

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