Have you heard some of these comments from your little ones at the table when you serve them a meal? If you have a child who is over 18 months old, chances are that you have!
“I don’t like it”
One area where young children quickly learn they can wield some power is with food. They typically go through a phase we often label as “picky eating.” This is often simply a child’s normal reaction to being exposed to new foods. Or he may be exerting his newfound sense of self and showing his independence. Be prepared when you see this emerging, and avoid falling into the trap of mounting power struggles over how much or what your children are eating.
How do you know if your child is in this phase?
HERE ARE SOME TYPICAL BEHAVIORS
- say they don’t like a food even before they have tried it
- refuse to eat a food they ate happily just a few days ago
- have a favorite food they want to eat over and over again
- move food around other plates, so certain things don’t touch each other
- eat just one or two foods at a meal, then the next day eat a different set of one or two foods
What can you do?
- teach her to say no thank you politely, rather than saying “yuck!”
- tell her she doesn’t have to eat the particular food, that maybe next time she will want to, but she can eat the other things on her plate.
- continue to offer the new food at other meals (not consecutively, but at regular intervals). One refusal is not a reason for you to remove it from the menu. It can take over 10 exposures for child to decide she likes a new food.
- eat your own food with enthusiasm. You are your children’s best role model.
ENCOURAGE VARIED EATING
Encouraging your children to try foods, rather than forcing them to eat, is a winning strategy. Trust that once you have decided what, where, and when you offer food to your children, they will eat what they need. Create a positive environment, eat together, and then step back. Allow your children to choose how much of which foods to eat, from the ones that you have put on the menu for that meal. No negotiating for a certain number of bites. No cajoling or pressuring. No separate menus for the little ones. Let them take control of their eating within the context of the structure you have provided. With these strategies, you will glide through the picky eating phase, and your children will learn to like and eat a great variety of foods.
Note: If your child eats an extremely low number of foods, or has developmental delays, you might want to do some further reading. Take a look at : Extremepickyeatinghelp.com
Katja Leccisi, MS, RDN, author of How to Feed Your Kids: Four Steps to Raising Healthy Eaters is a registered dietitian-nutritionist in both Canada and the United States. She has spent her entire career working with families and educators in community, clinical and workshop settings in both countries as a nutritionist, and for ten years as a La Leche League Leader and Certified Lactation Consultant. Visit her website and join the conversation on Facebook