Have a "Picky Eater"? Read our Top 10 Ways To End Picky Eating!!!
This is Part 6 of The Nestery’s series on weaning your child.
Want to know more about starting solids with your baby in a way that encourages healthy eating?
Check out The Nestery’s previous blog posts here:
- Weaning Basics
- Traditional Weaning and Self Feeding
- Baby Led Weaning - An Indian Parent's Guide
- Troubleshooting for Baby Led Weaning
- Learning to Handle the Lure of Forbidden Foods
Is there anything worse than lovingly preparing a meal for your child and having it all rejected? How many times have you stayed up worrying about your child's food intake and wondered when they'll finally start eating proper food?
Welcome to the struggles of dealing with a picky eater!
It is easy, as a parent, to be frustrated by your child's lack of food intake, but here are the top 10 ways that you can combat picky eating!
DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY:
It is easy to feel anger when the food you have made ends up uneaten. Nevertheless it is important not to react with frustration or anger towards the child.
The end goal must be to make the child willing to try the food, but they should not be eating just to please you.
INVOLVE THE CHILD IN MEAL PREPARATION:
The first step to end picky eating starts even before the food lands on the table. Try to include your child in grocery shopping and meal preparation. Give the child a shopping list with pictures on it to help them find what is needed while also encouraging them to pick out any other fruit or vegetable they would like to add. Once home, give them easy tasks to do like washing the produce, shelling peas etc.
Children are always more likely to try food that they have helped prepare.
TRY THE DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY:
Once the food is ready, the most important thing you can do is called Division of Responsibility (DOR).
Coined by nutritionist Ellyn Satter, DOR is an approach that lets the parents decide what to serve and when, while the child gets to decide what and how much to eat. This eliminates any nagging, threatening, distracting or force feeding because the responsibility of eating is passed over to the child.
Sounds a bit scary doesn't it? But it does work!
As long as you serve nutritious meals and snacks, the child will start regulating their own food intake, even if it takes time.
IMPLEMENT FAMILY MEALTIMES:
Tying in with the DOR approach is the idea of family mealtime. Rather than sitting the child down and putting all your energy into feeding them, mealtimes can be made more pleasant if everyone sits down to eat together.
The child gets an opportunity to serve themselves and self feed, while you get to model healthy eating to your child!
SERVE FREQUENT MEALS AND SNACKS:
Another great tip is feed your child more frequently than you may eat.
Don't just serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add in a couple of snacks per day. If the child eats less at a meal, they can make up at snack time. Don't worry if your child just eats the snacks to begin with. Make those healthy and filling too, like a mini meal! Avoid processed foods and sweets.
SERVE A VARIETY OF FOODS:
Avoid falling back on the same few foods your child prefers and serve a variety of foods. Don't worry if they don't immediately try a new food. They may agree to try it only several times after being exposed to it.
Make sure to include a familiar food at the table which you know they will eat; it could be something simple like bread, yogurt or fruit but make sure the rest of the meal is varied.
TRY A "NO THANK YOU" BOWL:
Don't get discouraged if your child refuses to eat a certain food or food group (no vegetables is the toughest one!) or eats only some foods like only white rice or only roti for example. These are all phases that pass, it is just important not to make a big deal of them.
Try keeping a no thank you bowl - a place where the child can place something that they don't want to eat from their meal. Rather than reprimanding the child about removing those items from their plate, try to use encouraging phrases like "I see you are still learning to like broccoli!" or "maybe you'll like this the next time we make it!" Just keep serving the food item and if needed, accept rejection super calmly. It is a strategy that will pay off!
RESPECT THE CHILD'S APPETITE:
What happens if your child absolutely refuses to eat? It is possible that the child is genuinely not hungry. It is important to respect that. Give it 30-60 mins and try to serve the same meal again. This helps children understand their own appetite, when they are hungry and when they are full. And they are definitely more likely to eat when they are truly hungry. In case they skip that meal, don't panic and offer a snack later!
CHECK YOUR LANGUAGE:
Don't constantly refer to your child as a picky eater. The more your child hears this, the more they begin to internalise and accept this as part of their personality. That's the opposite of what we want to do, which is to encourage them to eat a variety of foods.
DEALING WITH "JUNK FOOD":
Consciously avoid calling processed foods "treats" or "junk". Calling them treats makes them forbidden foods and hence, a lot more appealing. And calling them junk food pushes food into good and bad categories. And so if your child eats and enjoys the "junk", they may start thinking of themselves as bad.
It is better to discuss how some foods make the body healthier and others are "sometimes foods". This helps the child identify that we shouldn't eat them these foods all the time without making them sound too bad. And do give the child an opportunity to eat and enjoy these "sometimes foods as well"!
We hope that you find these tips helpful in dealing with fussy, picky eaters! They will help you maintain your sanity and a calm attitude as you help develop a child who is able and willing to eat a variety of food.
Aparajita Kumar is a mother of two who is passionate about gentle, respectful parenting. She makes YouTube videos about motherhood and gentle parenting in an endeavour to support and inspire her fellow parents.