Week after week, Anaya’s menu looks like this: potatoes and cheese, cheddar-cheese slices, chicken nuggets, and plain cheese pizza. She will eat a certain brand of pasta with butter but won’t touch spaghetti.
Most children go through a phase of fussy eating, I know my daughter did, whether it’s picking at their food before pushing their plate away, eating a few favourite foods, or flatly refusing to eat at meal times. You are not alone!
It’s normal for children to be fussy eaters – that is, to not like the shape, colour or texture of particular foods.
“The rule of thumb is the harder you work to try to get food into your child, the less likely your child will eat.”
Children have different taste preferences from grown-ups .They can be very strong willed when it comes to making decisions about food (to eat or not to eat, and what to eat). It’s all part of their social, intellectual and emotional development. While it can be frustrating when a child rejects the food we give them, it’s actually the way that we deal with the situation that impacts on their eating habits. It is easy to feel frustrated and powerless when your toddler simply refuses to eat certain foods.
A feeding problem is often the result of parents coercing their children to eat. The important thing to remember is that children will eat when they are hungry; unless they have a medical problem.
It’s also normal for children to like something one day but dislike it the next, to refuse new foods, and to eat more or less from day to day.
This all happens because fussy eating is part of children’s development. It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. And it’s also because their appetites go up and down depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are.
Although there’s no quick fix, the first step is to rethink the conventional wisdom that you’ve heard about fussy eaters.
“She’ll Grow Out of It”
Best way to outgrow this condition is to expose them to a variety of foods and to encourage them to try new foods. The child can be made comfortable eating a wider variety of foods by slowly introducing different foods that are similar in taste and texture to the ones she already likes.
So if she loves butter, try serving it on dosa, chicken, mini parathas, and vegetables. “Do it in a nonthreatening way, and offer a lot of positive reinforcement.
“She’s Just Being Difficult”
Punishing your child for refusing to try new foods can turn new foods into a negative thing. If your child refuses to eat it, you can offer it to her again another time. It’s tempting to offer your child food treats just so she ‘eats something’ – for example, ‘If you have a carrot, you can have some chocolate’. But this can make your child more interested in treats than healthy food. It also sends the message that eating healthy food is a chore.
“She’ll Eat When She’s Hungry”
A child will eventually eat whatever you serve as long as there’s no other option on the table. In truth, simply being hungry won’t make a kid overcome his fears about eating foods she doesn’t like, and her anxiety can make her feel even less hungry.However, that doesn’t mean you should give in to your kid’s every wish either. If you only serve her favorite foods, she won’t have any incentive to eat anything else. Parents are often pushy one minute and accommodating the next: They might insist that a child clean her plate at lunch but then make her a special meal for dinner if she doesn’t like what the family is having. Unfortunately, this just reinforces rigid eating habits.
Here are some of the mealtime basics that could be a good idea to support your child’s need for independence
- Be clear with your child about your behavior expectations. Let her know ahead of time that you will expect her to sit while she eats and not leave the table until she is done. Eating the food options you’ve offered is totally her choice. She is welcome to have just a bite or two or nothing at all, as she wishes.
- Sit with your child and give her your undivided attention. Make your child’s mealtimes a time of connection and intimacy (and this ideally includes breast or bottle feedings).
- Remind her that if she gets up from the table or plays with food, it will demonstrate to you that she is finished eating and you will put her food away. And follow through.
- Be calm, matter-of-fact and totally non-judgmental while consistently following through with establishing these behavior boundaries. Our clarity and honesty are gifts to our children
- Sometimes your child will refuse food just because it gets an interesting reaction from you! If children refuse to eat a food, it doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike it – after all, they might not have even tasted it yet. They might just be putting on a show of independence to see what you’ll do. Try to stay calm when this happens.
Sometimes, a medical problem can taint a child’s early experiences with food. A child could have a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can lead to a painfully irritated esophagus. The sensory components of eating are also a common stumbling block — many children are turned off by the taste, smell, or texture of certain foods. Experts speculate that these kids may have extra taste buds or other sensory receptors that make eating a more intense experience, but the problem isn’t well understood. Selective eating can be an early sign of autism, and children with developmental delays may be more likely to have eating issues in general. Certainly, every hard-to-feed kid doesn’t have an identifiable problem, but it’s important not to dismiss the possibility that there might be something more going on, in case your child needs treatment.
The key to tackling fussy eaters is to be patient. The more worried and anxious you are; the less is your child likely to eat. It takes time for children to develop good eating habits. A certain amount of freedom concerning their diet should be allowed by adopting a relaxed attitude. The best thing to do is to set an example by demonstrating good habits. Reduce your own intake of chips, soft drinks and junk food, and see the magic unfold!