Many parents worry about what their children are eating, or rather, not eating. However, most children get plenty of nutrition in their diets over the course of the week.
If your child is picky about what he or she eats, there could be a number of reasons for it – your child could be particularly sensitive to the smell, taste, and texture of certain foods. Your child may also have an underlying sensory issue or an eating behavior that is influenced by punishments and bribes.
Here are some tips to prevent arguments at the dinner table and ensure your children get enough nutrition to grow up healthy and strong!
Some signs that your child may be a picky eater include:
One of the reasons for picky eating could be that your child has sensory issues that are affecting the way they perceive the taste, texture, and smell of certain foods.
Other times, a child may develop a fear of eating a particular food either from choking on it or when a parent reacts in a negative way to them eating the food. It gets worse if parents force their children to eat or scold them, causing the child to associate the food with negative experiences.
There can also be medical causes such as an oral motor difficulty where your child has difficulties handling food, moving it in their mouth, or chewing it. They can also have gastroesophageal reflux disease which can cause them to feel discomfort and pain in their esophagus, putting them off from eating.
If your child is not hungry, don’t force them to eat. Don’t force them to finish their food or to eat a certain food that they don’t want to eat. This causes them to associate their meals with negative emotions such as frustration or become less sensitive to cues that tell them if they are hungry or full.
Instead, you can serve smaller portions so that your child can ask for more if they are hungry while giving them the space to eat less if they don’t have the appetite.
Serve your meals at the same time every day with consistent intervals between meals.
You can also include snack times so that your child can eat even if they did not eat a meal so they still get all the nutrition they need. However, if you allow your child to eat snacks frequently during the day, they may not be hungry during meals, causing them to eat less at mealtimes.
Hence, strike a balance between mealtimes and snack times!
Don’t force your child to eat new foods immediately. You might need to repeatedly expose them to new food and talk to them about the texture, smell, color, and shape of the food before they get comfortable enough to try a bite.
If you serve new foods, have it alongside foods that your child likes and is familiar with. You can introduce one new food at a time rather than having an entire meal of completely new foods. It may also help to serve small portions in the beginning before progressing to larger portions.
Avoid giving your child snacks between official snack times or meal times or give them separate meals if they reject the meal that was originally served. This can encourage them to be picky. Request them to sit for the entire mealtime until most people have finished, even if they don’t eat their meal.
Don’t give your child sweets or fried foods to bribe them to eat as they might want more of that instead of their actual meal. You can serve healthy desserts once or twice a week such as fruits or yogurt.
Don’t allow your child to watch television or videos on their phones during mealtimes so that they can focus on eating.
Sometimes, advertisements that they see on videos or on television can also trigger them to want other foods they prefer eating instead of the meal served to them.
Use brightly colored food during meals and cut them into different shapes to keep things interesting for your child.
You can also serve healthy food with your child’s favorite sauce to entice them to eat the food. Share stories and other experiences during mealtimes so that your child will start to associate food with fun.
While your child is unlikely to change his or her eating habits quickly, there are little things you can do every day to encourage them to eat their meals. Record the types of food and the amounts your child is eating every day for a week so that you can get a gauge of how much nutrition they’re really getting over the entire week.
If you are concerned that there may be a medical issue or sensory issue that is causing your child to be a picky eater, consult your paediatrician or medical specialist for advice.
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