Picky eating is a normal behavior of a child during early childhood stage, the child starts to be selective on the amount of food intake and its flavors. They show unwillingness to try different varieties of food. They limit their taste preference to sweet and salty, refusing to try the sour and bitter food.
This is the start of the nightmare of the parents out there during mealtime, there’s the usual tantrums like crying, playing of food, and showing of stubbornness to eat. Sometimes, the child became fixated to this stage that even as a grown up the picky eating habit becomes Selective Eating Disorder.
What might cause this?
According to the www.parentingideas.org these are the 5 common causes of picky eating in children:
1. Slower growth rate. At 1- to 3- olds tend to grow more slowly compared to other stages of development. Their appetite would vary from time to time as well. The stomach of a toddler is small and only need a few food to fill up.
2. Need more time. Some children just need more time to get used to the various textures, colors and tastes of new food. Study shows that most children will try a new food after being offered it 10-15 times.
3. Mood Swing. Toddlers are easily influenced by emotions and moods. They might eat well one day and the other day eat nothing. They don’t make decisions like adults based on reasoning. Most adults would go for some healthy foods even though they don’t like them very much. But the word of “health” doesn’t make any sense for children. So reasoning or cajoling won’t work for toddlers. Fortunately, there are other ways to solve the problem of picky eating.(I talk about it later on.)
4. Picky eaters may be born that way. New research cited in The Yale Guide to Children’s Nutrition (Yale University Press) edited by William V. Tamborlane, M.D., suggests:
Picky eaters may be born that way: the ability to taste sweetness and bitterness may be genetically related to the number of taste buds on a person’s tongue. The so-called genetic supertaster, for example, may have as many as 1,100 taste buds per square centimeter of tongue, while a more accepting eater may have as few as 11 taste buds in the same-size area.
Based on this understanding, I can tell why my daughter is more picky than my son. She can tell what ingredients and herbs I put in a plate just by tasting the first bit. But for my son, every kind of food is the same to him. His job is to finish the plate.
5. Parental influence. An article posted by University of California states that “other children develop picky eating habits by modeling after their parents’ fussy eating habits.” Picky eating habits are more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children’s eating behaviors.
Mealtime should be a feel good experience for you and your child, here are some techniques I gathered from www.mayoclinic.com that can help you in this stage.
1. Respect. A child’s apetite varies on their mood and actual “hunger-level”. Do not force the meal or snack to the child because it might create a bad association to eating.
2. Stick to the routine. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Nix juice, milk and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat.
3. Be patient with new food. Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.
4. Make it fun. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner.
5. Recruit your child’s help. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don’t buy anything that you don’t want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
6. Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
7. Be sneaky. Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
8. Minimize distractions. Turn off the television during meals, and don’t allow books or toys at the table.
9. Don’t offer dessert as a reward. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child’s desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
10. Don’t be a short order cook. Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal may encourage your child’s picky eating. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
Just be a parent and guide your child into healthy eating without using force.
Hope this will help all the mothers out there. =)