There comes a time in our child’s life when they refuse to eat the foods they normally loved. As a parent it can become increasingly frustrating. We want to make sure our children are getting the foods they need to grow and become healthy young adults, but we then fall into the rut of just giving them any sort of food because we feel that they need “something” in their belly. This method may make you feel better for the moment and satisfy your child, but in the long run you are just creating bad eating habits that will be harder to break as your child gets older.
Children from the ages of 1 through 3 years old gain weight more slowly which is a huge difference of tripling their birth weight in just the first year. So the child you knew to eat everything in sight doesn’t have the same appetite because they don’t really need to eat as much. We need to remember that children during those toddler periods are always on the go and NEVER wanting to stop for anything – even food.
As parents it’s our job to put the right kinds of foods in front of our kids, not just “kid foods” that we think they will eat. After that, we really need to leave it up to our children because we can’t force them to eat. Children at that age may eat only fruits one day and vegetables the next. The one meal you cooked last week that they loved could be thrown on the floor the following time you make it. With that being said, as parents we need to aim for a healthy week not just a healthy day.
Tips for Frustrated Parents
Respect Your Child - If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force them to eat. At mealtimes refrain from bribery, or forcing your child to eat certain foods or clean their plate. You don’t want you child to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration. You can serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child.
Stick To A Routine - Serve meals and snacks around the same time every day. Be consistent so that you child knows exactly what is expected of them.
Be Patient - It sometimes take up to 20 tries before a child develops a taste for a new food. Keep exposing your child to the new foods at mealtimes so they become familiar with the smells, color, texture of those foods.
Serve Healthy Choices - One of that best ways to change a child’s eating habits is to eliminate unhealthy choices. By doing that your child will not be tempted to eat those unhealthy foods on a regular basis.
Get Children Involved - Make them a part of the meal planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even invite your picky eater to go shopping with you. Let them pick out “HEALTHY” foods for the meals. By doing this you are giving them some control but still within your boundaries. Let your child cook with you in the kitchen, the more involved they are in the food choosing and preparing process the more they will want to eat those healthy choices.
Set A Good Example - If you want your child to choose healthy foods then you need to make healthy choices for yourself. You can’t expect a child to eat vegetables at dinner if you don’t eat them too.
Minimize Distractions - When eating have your child eat at a table without toys or TV to distract them
Family Mealtime - Make family meals a priority. When families eat together children are more likely to try new foods. Children become less stressed out about eating because you are making mealtime a fun family activity than a chore.
One Family = One Meal - Cook only 1 meal for the entire family. You are not running a restaurant and children need to recognize that the meal being served is the meal they need to eat or at least try. If you choose not to eat, DO NO give them something else. The child will be just fine in the morning and maybe eat a larger breakfast.
Teach Children Where Food Comes From - We need to start teaching our children at a young age where our food comes from. Plant a container or small home garden. Make this a family project so everyone is involved through the planting and growing season. Children love to take ownership over something, and planting and harvesting are great ways to give them some independence, a new skill set and the understanding of the food process.
I hope these tips gave you more confidence to make healthier choices for your child. I am starting a “Picky Eater” series where we will dive in and take a closer look at the tips I gave you. I will provide tangible information such as recipes, resources and tips that you can take with you so your mealtimes are relaxed and fun.
I’d love to know what challenges you are facing with your children during mealtimes? See you back here next Wednesday for “Picky Eater Wednesday”.