Help for health professionals dealing with picky eaters at home: 4 tips for improving your children's food habits.
You’re a full-time health care professional with a toddler and a school-aged child. Your toddler is a picky eater who hates trying new foods while your school-aged child goes through weekly food jags eating only a few foods over and over again.
Does this sound like you? Many parents are dealing with meal mayhem. Picky eating and food jag habits are actually very common. So try not to fret about these habits, as long as your child is following a healthy growth curve – ask your family doctor or dietitian to help you monitor their growth. In the meantime, follow these simple steps to get mealtimes back on track.
Spot the Problem
“I wish mealtimes were less chaotic and more enjoyable.” “All I want is for my child to have a balanced diet and to eat a variety of foods.” “How can I make meals that will please everyone?” Many parents are probably dealing with these concerns. What’s your main meal problem?
Get the Facts
Children are typically able to self regulate the amount of energy they consume. What they eat on a day-to- day basis will vary based on their appetite, fatigue, activity level and growth, and that’s normal. But here are some strategies to help you cope with a picky eater:
- Share the responsibility for food. Parents and children have different jobs at meals. As a parent, your role is to determine what food is served, when it is served and where it is served.
- Expose your child to a variety of foods. Repeated exposure to food means more than just presenting the same new foods one or two times. It can take up to 15 positive experiences before a child is willing to try something new.
- Avoid pressure, praise, rewards or punishment. Pressuring children to eat certain foods and making the mealtime experience stressful is an ineffective strategy.
- Get kids involved with their meal. It helps to get children involved with grocery shopping, to get them hands-on in the kitchen or even allow them to pack their own lunches.
Have you tried these strategies but are still struggling with your picky eater? It might be time for professional advice from your family doctor or registered dietitian.