Picky Eating: How to avoid it and what to do about it
Parenting a picky eater can be challenging at times, but picky eating is a normal stage of childhood — let us remind you, you are NOT alone! Parenting is all about learning and even making some mistakes along the way. We’re here to give you some strategies that might make this stage a little easier.
Introduce new foods early. Children begin to develop a fear of new foods around the toddler stage (ages 2 to 3 years old). To prevent this, try introducing new foods early on to develop an acquired taste for a variety of foods with different tastes and textures. When introducing new foods, be sure to only have them try a small portion and monitor them closely for potential allergic reactions.
Don’t be discouraged. Often children need to be exposed to a new food multiple times before they will eat it. Research shows that that number could be anywhere from 8-15 times on average. If at first, you don’t succeed, keep trying! Children utilize all of their senses when being introduced to a new food item — allow them to touch and smell it. Different forms of exposure and "playing" with their food will eventually encourage them to taste it.
Put a stop to the label “picky eater.” Labeling your child as a "picky eater" can add fuel to the fire. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy in action — if they believe they are a "picky eater," they will become one.
Give family-style dining a try. This is the method of serving the main and side dishes in the middle of the table, where everyone can help themselves to as much or as little as they like; it gives children the opportunity to decide what they want to eat and how much they want. To learn more about the benefits of family-style dining, read our blog here.
Serve meals when a child is hungry. A great way to optimize your children's appetite for mealtime is by weaning off snacks throughout the day. By doing this, your children will show up to the table hungry and ready to eat!
Introduce a new food through play. Children learn best through play between the ages of infancy and grade school. Encourage your child to try a new food item by reading a book about it, spotting it in a video or on the shelf at a grocery store. At Kids & Company, we introduce food education to our children through our Nutrition Curriculum. They learn about where food comes from, use their five senses to describe food, and learn about ethnic diversity and sustainability!
Involve your child in the food-making process. Another way to encourage adventurous eating is to invite your children to help you cook and prepare the meals. Some examples of how they can help are by measuring out specific ingredients needed for the meal, or by washing the fruits and vegetables. This can be a fun activity and can lead to your children becoming more interested and inclined to eat the food that they had a hand in making.
Food is fun! Remember, food is fun! You can make mealtime fun for your children by incorporating foods that are in a variety of colours. For example, create an array of fun colourful fruits on one plate. You can even try sticking to your child’s favourite colours at first and then incorporating other coloured foods as well.
And last but not least — relax! This too shall pass. It is important to remember that this is all a part of your child's development. This stage is only temporary. Please don't be too harsh on yourself, and remember that it is all a learning process. There is no magical recipe for anything related to parenting. Be open to trying new foods and your child will follow! Just have fun and learn by doing!