Is your child choosy about eating?

  • By Sahana Rajan

Depending on the age of the child, their diet must be formulated. However, in case of picky eaters, these diet charts have to be continuously modified, leaving out certain foods which could be a storehouse of significant nutrients. The signs that a child is a picky eater include the frequent refusal to try new foods outside a certain range, as well as the act of spitting out foods which might have unfamiliar texture. The prime results of choosy-eating are the intake of insufficient nutrition leading to compromise in growth, lower immunity to illnesses, negative impact on cognitive development, and also psychological strains in parent-child relationship.

It is important to ensure that a parent is able to distinguish between a smaller appetite and choosy eating. In pre-school children, there is a lower rate of growth and development than in toddlers. Once they grow up gradually, they generally begin to eat greater amounts of food as per the body’s requirements. Introduce different foods on a regular basis. This will give the child time to warm up to the new food and for the food to become a 'regular.'

Never force your child to finish everything on the plate. Instead, start with a small meal and let the child decide the amount he wants. It is also important not to set any strict time period for the child to finish the meal. Let the child decide how much time he needs to finish a certain meal and you, on your part, only observe. Remember not to criticize your child for being a picky eater, instead subtly pick up on the signs and work your way through.

Constant scolding of picky-eating could only worsen the situation by reducing your child’s want to actively participate in the eating. In case your child wants to eat on his own, let him be his own self.

When cooking your meal, do not cook every food item for all the family members. The best way is to choose a few food items that will be shared and the others on the basis of individual likes. To introduce a certain kind of food, try similar substitutes. For instance, if your child doesn’t like squash, introduce sweet potatoes.

Providing too many choices could also make your child get into the habit of being choosy - offer only two to three options and let the child decide. Also ensure that there are minimum distractions during the meal time. TV, toys, or mobiles will lessen the participation of the child. Let the prime focus be on the food while on the dinner table.

Schedule your child’s meals in such a manner that there are three regular meals and two healthy snacks in between these. While you introduce your child to a new food, try to increase the nutritional value of the food he readily accepts. For instance, addition of wheat germ or diced chicken to macaroni and dropping in pureed vegetables like spinach and others in the pasta sauce will help in adequately making the food nutritional.