|Your child’s tastes change from one day to the next. Give him greens and he spits them out. Offer him a familiar food prepared in a different style and he rejects it. He simply refuses to eat anything while at the dinner table. Such picky eating habits can sometimes leave parents at their wits’ end.Children may become fussy eaters for various reasons:
Resistance towards breaking away from a familiar routine
Children may be unwilling to try new food items as they are reluctant to taste foods which they are not used to eating or have not tried before.
Sensitive taste buds
Some children have sensitive taste buds and so may not like certain foods for their texture or taste. They may also associate particular foods with a previous bad experience and choose to avoid these.Generally, people have a stronger preference for sweet and savoury food and dislike bitter and sour tastes. The same holds true for children as well, and is probably why vegetables are not as popular with them compared to, say, ice cream.
Snacks just before main meals
If a child frequently snacks between meals, he may not have the appetite to eat during main meals. For example, if a child has a heavy afternoon tea, he may be too full to have dinner. According to Ms Letty Shiu, nutritionist, Youth Health Division, Health Promotion Board, “Children develop eating habits during their early years and these habits often accompany them into adulthood. It is therefore important to introduce healthy balanced diets and encourage good eating habits from young.”Here are some tips for you to ease your children out of their fussy eating habits.
Introduce new food slowly
When introducing new food items to your child, do so in small portions gradually over a period of time. Your child may not accept these foods the first time. Be patient as it may be necessary to introduce a new food item to your child several times before he accepts it.
Do not force feed
If your child is not hungry, do not force him to complete a meal. If your child cannot finish all the food on his plate, do not force him to do so as he may have had enough. When serving meals, it will be better to serve him smaller servings of food and offer him more if he needs it.
Make food fun
Do a little brainstorming and come up with appealing food presentations that will whet your child’s appetite. Give these tips a shot:
Give healthy food nicknames to fit your child’s imaginary world. For example, “little Os” for O-shaped cereals, “snow white tofu” for beancurd, “banana wheels” for banana slices, “carrot swords” for thinly sliced carrots.
Create stories around the food and relate it to your child’s favourite characters to teach him the value of healthy eating. You can say something like “Thomas the Train needs coal to move, this food is your coal that will give you energy to run around and play.”
Include a variety of colourful food in your child’s meal and cut foods into interesting shapes such as star-shaped carrots. Prepare food that is easy for your child to pick up and munch on such as apple dippers and mini buns.
Prepare a variety of dips so your child can have fun dunking food into the bowl. Fruit and yogurt is an example of a healthy and nutritious food-and-dip combination you can serve.
Involve your child in food preparation
When your child is involved in meal preparation, he may be more likely to eat the food he prepared. Bring your child grocery shopping and ask him to select the vegetables, meat and fruit that the whole family can enjoy together. Encourage your little one to be adventurous with food and teach him about the variety of food ingredients, their textures, colours, shapes and aromas.
Assign them responsibilities in the kitchen as well. Younger children can perform easier tasks like washing lettuce or scrubbing potatoes, while the older ones can measure ingredients or do the mixing and stirring.
Set an example
A child is quick to observe and model after his parents’ own aversion to certain foods. Thus parents should refrain from displaying poor eating habits and play up the healthier options.
Organise the occasional food party and invite your child’s friends over to create a happy eating environment and positive food culture. Children love to imitate others, especially, kids their own age.
Create a pleasant environment
Avoid creating a tense and anxious environment at mealtimes. Do not threaten or punish your child for poor eating habits. Such actions may perpetuate negative eating behaviours. The environment and conversations during mealtimes should be pleasant, safe, relaxing and happy, so that your child will have a positive association with food. In this way, your child will learn to love and treasure enjoyable moments while having meals. Also when eating, try not to let your child get distracted by reading, watching television or having toys at the table.
If your child rejects many kinds of food, it may affect his normal growth and development. In such situations, parents should consider consulting a professional such as a doctor or dietitian for advice. Toddlers may also benefit from milk formula and supplements fortified with additional ingredients.
-Article extracted from Today’s Parents, Dec 07 issue