Dealing with picky eating in children

Picky eating is a common phase in childhood, but it often leaves parents wondering whether we should intervene
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As a parent, it can be incredibly frustrating when your child refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. Picky eating is a common phase in childhood, but it often leaves parents wondering whether we should intervene and if so, how? BYY expert dietician, Kath Megaw, gives guidance.

Firstly, let’s explore why picky eating occurs, when to take action, and what steps can help expand your child’s palate in a friendly and practical way.

Why do kids become picky eaters?

Picky eating is a normal part of development. Young children are naturally cautious about trying new foods, a trait that historically protected them from eating potentially harmful substances. Plus, toddlers are exerting their independence, and controlling what they eat is one way to do that. Their taste preferences are still developing, and kids often prefer familiar and simple flavours.

Check out: Encouraging healthy eating habits in your kids 

Should we do something about it?

While picky eating can be frustrating, it’s essential to approach the situation with patience and understanding. Here are some key reasons why addressing picky eating can be beneficial:

  1. Nutritional balance: Ensuring children get a variety of nutrients is crucial for their growth and development.
  1. Healthy eating habits: Early intervention can prevent long-term unhealthy eating patterns.
  1. Social skills: Being open to trying new foods can make social situations, like eating at friends’ houses or attending parties, more comfortable.
  1. Avoiding power struggles: Gentle guidance can prevent mealtime from becoming a battleground, fostering a positive family environment.
  1. Cultural appreciation: Encouraging kids to try diverse foods can help them appreciate different cultures and cuisines.

Check out: Your child’s eating habits- what’s normal and what’s not?

What can we best handle picky eaters?  

 Here are some practical tips to help your child become a more adventurous eater:

  1. Make mealtime enjoyable: Create a positive, stress-free environment around meals. Avoid pressuring your child to eat or making mealtime a battleground. Encourage conversation and make it a time for family bonding.
  2. Lead by example: Children often model their parents’ behaviours. Show enthusiasm for trying new foods yourself. When they see you enjoying a variety of foods, they are more likely to follow suit.
  3. Offer variety without pressure: Present a variety of healthy foods without forcing your child to eat them. Offer small portions of new foods alongside their favourites. Exposure without pressure can gradually increase their willingness to try new things.
  4. Involve them in cooking: Kids are more likely to try foods they’ve helped prepare. Let them pick out fruits and vegetables at the store, wash them, or help with simple cooking tasks. This involvement can make them more interested in tasting their creations.
  5. Let them help create the menu: Looking through cookbooks together can be fun and a great way to get them engaged in the process. Also, if the food appeals to them visually in the book, they may be more willing to try it.
  6. Be patient and persistent: It can take multiple exposures to a new food before a child is willing to try it. Don’t give up after a few attempts. Keep offering new foods in a non-pressuring way and celebrate small victories when they try something new.

By approaching picky eating with understanding and patience, you can help your child develop healthier eating habits without turning mealtime into a battle. Remember, the goal is to create a positive and adventurous relationship with food that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Also read: Making eating fun for kids by using the 5 senses

Related Articles

Leave a Comment