Kids' Health

Too Picky! (Overcoming children’s fussy eating habits)

Of all the myriad child-rearing issues that we as parents face, getting the required quantities of good grub down the necks of our offspring can sometimes seem disproportionately challenging. While feeding kids does come down to a fairly basic equation of good food + hungry child = healthy child, it’s rarely that simple in reality. There are all sorts of reasons why children may not, cannot, or will not eat all the things we would like them to, and nourishing your offspring can be a fraught affair from the word go. 

It’s true that you shouldn’t worry too much about the way your kids eat. It’s also true that you almost certainly will. Here are some important points for dealing with difficult eaters and to stop mealtimes from becoming a battlefield with fussy children. If you remember nothing else, remember these!

Be cool: Easier said than done, but it’s true that attitude is everything when it comes to feeding children. Never let them see that their food issues are upsetting you – in some cases, it will simply make things worse. 

Be a foodie: And encourage your kids to be, too. Get them in the kitchen, cooking their own food, and in the garden, growing it. Take them shopping, let them choose, allow them to prepare meals and snacks. Experiment, try something different every so often. And don’t forget to talk about food – it’s a fascinating subject. 

Be a good eater yourself: Sit at the table with them, eat your greens, and keep your treat intake limited. You are the foremost influence on your children, in eating and everything else. Their health is truly in your hands and the example you set is vital. 

Be careful: Don’t offer food as a bribe or reward, however desperate you get, and keep praise low-key. Be sure not to ‘label’ them – you may well have a difficult eater on your hands, but don’t call them one to their face. 

Be sensitive: Watch out for the difficult eater with an underlying emotional need, and always treat the issue with care and understanding. 

Be well informed: Do your homework so you know what the basics of nutrition are! That way, you’ll know off the top of your head what healthy alternatives you can offer a child who is asking for junk food; or an appropriate replacement when a child simply refuses to eat something. And, arm yourself with a good library of recipes and food ideas. 

Be reasonable: Maybe your little difficult eater just doesn’t like certain foods, or maybe they have a perfectly understandable preference for some foods. Why not? They may be kids, but they’re also humans. A child should never be made to eat anything. Apart from being cruel, it’s counter-productive and certainly won’t make them more inclined to eat it in the future. And, neither should a child be banished entirely from enjoying the things they love, sometimes. 

Preset meal times: Regular mealtimes can help to ensure your child is hungry at the right times. Keeping meals to a regular schedule throughout the day can also help your child recognize queues for when the mealtime is about to start and when it’s due to finish.

It may take some time for changes to take effect, so be patient. If it seems like nothing is working, talk to a pediatric nutritionist. Together you can figure out what to do.

Whether you’re trying to expand the limited food horizons of a fussy eater or overhaul the habits of a child with a weight problem, you’ll need to be consistent, firm, and resolute. You’ll get there eventually. Hang in there!

Author: Reetu Verma


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