Do you have a picky eater in your home? Today, picky eating as a child is almost considered “normal.” But, most people outgrow their picky habits as they mature, and picky eating usually peaks in the toddler and preschool years.
Many parents worry that their picky eater is not getting enough nutrients to grow normally. This is rarely the case, however. Of course, if you suspect that your child’s growth pattern is not normal, you should consult your child’s health care provider. But, in most the vast majority of cases, some dislike of certain foods during childhood is not an issue for concern.
So, why are toddlers often picky eaters? In these early years, children are beginning to feed themselves and choosing what they will or won’t eat is one way to exert control over their lives. In other cases, so much is changing in a child’s life (talking, walking, climbing, etc.), that they seek “sameness” as much as possible. This causes them to desire the same foods and gives them a sense of safety and security in this period of rapid change. (see some other reasons for picky eating in our recent post, Picky Eaters: What You May Not Know)
What can you as a parent do to help your child break out of their picky habits and enjoy a variety of foods? Here are some tips:
Eat a range of foods yourself. It has been said that children are very poor listeners, but wonderful imitators. They may not obey you, and sometimes even ignore you, but they do tend to watch everything you do. They are likely to adopt your food selection habits, so make sure your own food choices are in line with the foods you want your child to eat.
Prepare meals together. There is no reason to struggle in the kitchen yourself. Even the youngest toddler can help count things out, get various ingredients from the cupboard or refrigerator (with your help, of course), and help set the table. This makes them feel like they have role in the foods being served, and in turn, makes them more accepting of them.
Show an interest in new and different foods. You may encounter new foods from time to time that you don’t like, and your child will take note of how you react (remember, they watch everything!). A recent study found that mothers who showed that they were uninterested or discussed by new and different foods were far more likely to have children who didn’t want to try new foods either. So, when a new food is offered to you, show interest in it (even ask questions about it), and if you’re so inclined, try it. If you don’t want to try it, politely tell the server it looks good, but you will pass this time.
It turns out that you have a lot of influence over what your children like and don’t like to eat. Sometimes they will develop dislikes for certain foods for whatever reason (my sister, who is in her 40’s, still won’t eat mushrooms). But many of their eating habits are learned directly from you.
To learn more about getting your children to eat healthy, check out our FREE ebook, Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? It’s available on our website.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family’s health for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: What You May Not Know, 5 Tips for Getting Any Kid to Eat Healthy