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Parents with very picky children often have to struggle with providing the child a balance meal that is not only nutritious but also tasty.
Be Warned: Getting the food ready is only the first part of the struggle.
Imagine spending 2 hours preparing a meal, just to have your children push it around in their plates for the next hour.
The actual challenge is getting the child to eat the food.
Greens are often the nemesis for many children, but they are an essential part of a growing child’s diet, providing much of minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium as well as vitamins B, C, E & K. Likewise there are other food groups that some children may love, while others may abhor. It is simply about preferences.
To be fair, your genes have a part to play in your ability to taste. Some people taste certain flavours more strongly. This may have caused the ‘pickiness’.
Here’s an article that gives some insight:
Choice & Selection
There are many ways to get children to try new food, but often the factor that prevents us from doing so is time. Children are attracted to colours and shapes and a plate of food that is of the same colour would definitely lose its appeal.
For example, an entire plate of salad greens would appear unattractive to an adult too, which is why we turn to food of more interesting packaging or combination.
Ask yourself, which would you choose?
The delightfully colored salad or the dull green one?
Tackling Picky Eaters:
Look out for the magic key words.
While we understand the importance of regular meal times, a child should not be forced to finish the meal if he is not hungry. Forcing does not lead to healthy eating habits or good self-esteem
Instead, serve small portions, allowing the child to ask for more. This avoids food wastage as well.
|Avoid irregular snacking as it might decrease the child’s appetite during mealtimes.|
|New foods are tricky, a child may not like the taste or colour or smell.Repeated exposure may be required and it is often more favourable when served along with their favourite food.|
Bright and Interesting
|Children are naturally attracted to colours, shapes and fun. Some ways to make food interesting includes adding a variety of colours, such as mix of carrots, peas and pineapples. For shapes, cookie cutters can be used to cut food.Dips can also be used to encourage the child to try different flavours.|
Parents can encourage participation in food preparation and selection so that children feel empowered in decision making for meals.
We are referring to a mealtime when everyone is present without the distraction of the television or mobile phone. Through family meals, adults or older children can be role models for younger children to encourage communication and tasting of new food.
Younger children are likely to follow in the behaviour of those around them.
Limit Meal Times
|30-45 minutes should be more than adequate for a hungry child. Be firm on the time limit. At the end of mealtime, put it away and if your child is hungry, he has to wait for the next scheduled meal time.|
Avoid the Power Struggle
“If you finish this, you can have dessert”.
Children learn eventually how to negotiate if you let on. Instead of offering this for that, it is often better to just make the ‘treat’ part the end of the meal.
If a child eats only a little, they will go hungry and eventually they will learn that the treat does not keep them full and only a fraction of the meal.
Likewise if they refuse dinner, they will have to wait until breakfast the next day to eat. They may go hungry, but will make up for it at the next meal.
Sticking to rules will allow them to understand that mealtimes are regulated.
Don’t Give Up
We worry when our children don’t eat.
While we don’t force the meals on them, we should not give in to them by providing junk food just so they would eat. Stay firm, it may take 10-15 experiences to get them to try the food.
Some examples of interesting food shapes:
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In Japan, where there are no lunch facilities in pre-school, very often mummies will have to come up with innovative ‘bentos’ for their children everyday. Here are some examples (looks too cute to eat):
Photo Credits: X
Photo Credits: X
Brian Handwerk. 2014. Why Are You a Picky Eater? Blame Genes, Brains and Breast Milk. Retrieved from: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-are-you-picky-eater-blame-genes-brains-and-breast-milk-180953456/
Mayo Clinic. Children’s nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/childrens-health/art-20044948
Lilli B. Link. 2013. 10 Reasons Why Your kids Are Picky Eaters. Retrieved from: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/02/10-reasons-kids-picky-eaters.html
How to Handle Picky Eaters. Retrieved from: http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/health-nutrition/how-to-handle-picky-eaters.html#nottodo