“It is important to understand most fussy eaters refuse food as a behavioral response. In many cases it has nothing to do with the food but more so a new sense of independence”
By Vanessa Edwards
BScPA Certified Physician Assistant
Within the last year my husband and I have drastically changed the way we eat. We have adopted an organic plant-based diet that has worked wonders for us – the only problem is that our little one has not kept up with the changes. Until the age of 2 our daughter ate absolutely anything and everything, and then it all changed. Meal time became a challenge.
It is important to understand most fussy eaters refuse food as a behavioral response. In many cases it has nothing to do with the food but more so a new sense of independence. As a healthcare provider I know I’m not alone. Very often I see parents who are concerned with their child’s growth and nutrition due to the fact that they are selective eaters.
This is why I want to share ten strategies to approach the picky eater in your family:
- Aim for a nutritionally balanced week, not day. Children like to binge on one food at a time. They may eat only fruit one day, and vegetables the next. This is common.
- Offer a nibble tray. Children like to feel in charge, a nibble tray offers several bite size food options and gives them the independence to pick and choose from the tray. Make sure all food options are healthy, colorful, and nutrient dense.
- Offer a drink option. If your child would rather drink than eat, make a smoothie, or even smoothie pops!
- Be a positive role model. Children learn from their environment. If you are serving your child brussels sprouts…make sure there are some on your plate too.
- Respect tiny tummies. Start with a small portion and refill if your child asks for more. Proper portion sizes are roughly the size of your own fist.
- Involve them in the food preparation process. Let your child assist you in creating a weekly menu, grocery shopping, and food preparation. Give them simple tasks such as washing the lettuce or stirring.
- Ensure a proper environment for eating. Everyone must sit at the table to encourage family style meals. Minimize distractions including turning off the TV and other electronics.
- Set a routine – children thrive on routines. Offer three meals and 2-3 healthy snacks spaced 2-3 hours apart. Offer solids first then drinks. Make sure your child comes hungry to the table.
- Feed food your child likes, respect their food aversions. If you’re offering a new food, do so in a small portion. You may need to offer foods several times (up to 25 times) before a child is willing to try it.
- Count on inconsistency. Picky eating is part of what being a toddler is. Most children will go through a picky phase. The good news is: most will grow out of it!
If your child is meeting their developmental milestones and following their growth curve, they are likely meeting all nutritional demands.
Remember, it is also important to schedule regular visits with their healthcare provider and address this during well baby and well child visits.