When a child eats a little, or absolutely nothing, it definitely annoys you!
Children under five mostly show difficulty in eating different foods. The most common problem encountered is their picky eating habits, and are so-called ‘PICKY EATERS.’ These picky habits are experienced more in children when one starts switching their food from a liquid to a solid diet. When they start eating solid food, they turn their nose up to many foods.
Many parents, especially mothers, get annoyed when they find their children on a hunger strike. Children tend to want to eat certain foods, such as chicken nuggets, instant noodles, and other processed edibles. Although it is frustrating, we must understand that the appetite of a child varies from day today. However, if they eat a little or refuse to eat at all, there must be some valid reason. We must let them listen to this hunger. Do not worry; a healthy child will not starve!
There may be several reasons for a child’s refusal towards a certain type of food:
- Maybe the child is learning about independence and freedom.
- They had an unpleasant experience earlier with that particular kind of food such as choking or a stomachache.
- It could be inherited. Some kids are born with picky genes. Don’t worry; your cooking is not the culprit!
- They do not like the food at all.
- They might not be feeling well, or are ill.
- The toddler wants fun in everything. They are probably finding some kind of amusement in showing refusal.
- They want to get your attention.
- Demanding the food of their choice knowing no parent will leave their child on an empty stomach.
- Neophobic: that is afraid of tasting new things.
- Doesn’t get food on his or her particular feed time.
Although children deny food and get fussy, it’s not always their fault. It could also be related to the parenting style and culture. Studies have shown that toddlers who had the biggest problems at the table (they refused to eat fruits and vegetables; they ate little and badly; they were not open to experimenting with new flavors or they always wanted to eat the same things).
Whatever the causes, the question is, what to do now? There are various ways and strategies to overcome and deal with picky eaters such as:
Serve food only if the child is hungry
The basic reason for kids not consuming the food presented to them is because their stomach is full. The child when hungry eats well. Do not feed or force children to swallow certain foods. This will only trigger a child’s “inner battle” of food. Ask your child if he wants food now or not because they are best able to know if they are hungry, being in direct contact with his or her own belly. They can listen best to the signals of hunger and satiety.
Do not force feed them
Never force your child to eat everything that lies on the plate. If the child did not eat, it’s okay that means they’re full! Do not shove a spoon into their mouth forcibly, or negotiate 2-3 more bites, otherwise you will “form your own hands” by forming antipathy towards a certain kind of food. This may result in the rejection of the edible, quarreling, and lots of tears.
Let the child serve
Get used to giving a small portion of food to prevent children from feeling the excess. Ask the child if he or she have a small or big appetite at the time of serving, or let the child serve. He will know how much to put on his plate according to his appetite. This custom also gives them the opportunity to add portions independently.
Serve the food on time
Focus on not only the size of the portion your child eats, but also the time at which he or she does. Schedule your daily food. Serve food or snacks (snack) at a particular time, or the same hour every day. Often kids get full with snacks, just before they have to eat lunch or dinner. Even set the time for having juices or milk. Do not let your child freely drink juice or milk throughout the day, as it may actually interfere with their desire to eat. Try to develop their habit of drinking water in between meals.
Be patient when serving new food
As the child grows, their taste buds develop and they are able to identify different meals with their different tastes. Often insert small pieces of new food into their mouths and regurgitate it. You must have patience when serving new food because new adaptations often take time. Try to serve a variety of new foods, just to have a wider choice in case they tend to dislike it. Otherwise, he will leave the table.
Serve with creativity
Moms always get confused about how to feed natural and organic foods such as vegetables and fruits, because kids often don’t like them. Not a big deal! To be more creative, serve the vegetables with new variations like mixing them with chicken or meat. Cut fruits into many interesting and appealing forms with special tools or print. Colors attract toddlers. Make smiley faces, and serve in a colorful or funny plate because presentation pushes the craving for food.
The child must sit at the table even if they do not want to eat. It is important that they respect the schedule and share the moment with you. They must not believe that the refusal to eat is rewarded by a “privilege” period of games or TV! Promise a reward or a privilege only if they eat.
Fun is the only factor one can incorporate. Are you confused as to how to feed your toddler? Just relax, and learn the ways of fun feeding! Feed them while playing, by encouraging acts and sentences like (‘close your eyes and start counting’, ask the siblings who will be the winner etc). When food is served with some form of entertainment, kids will wait for lunch or dinnertime.
Involve kids in preparing menu
It is necessary to include your child’s favorite meal on the menu. Involve them in creating the menu. Also when shopping at the supermarket, ask your child for help choosing fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods they like. Ask for their favorite dishes to include in the menu and agree on them for your favorite ones too. Get help from your kids in cooking, as this will make them happy and anxious, as they were involved throughout the process.
Do not allow any gadgets
Make a rule “ Not to use any gadgets while eating” as it occupies their minds and they focus more on watching videos or playing games than eating. Turn off the television, gadgets or other electronic devices during mealtimes. This will help your child focus more on eating.
Allow some junk food
As kids’ first choice is junk food, it’s not good for their health if served daily. On weekdays you can prepare junk food at home. This will relax them into having their favorite foods on the weekend, thus motivating them to eat healthy through out the week.
Try some other time
Never think that once the child rejects a certain food, he or she will never eat it again. It depends on their mood and taste. Maybe it changes with time. Try the same food after some time and you will be amazed when they have it delightedly!
Eat with Your Kids
Toddlers want to have the same food we eat, especially the kids of ages between 2-3 years. They want to taste our food. Try to have your meal with your kids, and give them a taste of your food as well to develop their taste buds.
The overall picture will help dampen your anxiety. Being parents, you are the main role model in terms of reference and behavior. It goes without saying that if you give a wrong example, your children will most likely be influenced by it. Keep observing your child, their habits, recording the type and amount of food intake for at least three days. Do remember that your child’s eating habits will not change drastically in a short period of time. It will take time. Keep trying your best and you will succeed. If you happen to find any chronic issue, you must consult a pediatrician or a dietician immediately.