Do you have a picky eater at home?
Do you struggle with a picky eater? You are not alone! Picky eating is one of the most common parts of toddlerhood. If you have a picky eater at home and are feeling stressed at meal time or like you are failing as a parent, please know this is completely normal. Picky eating is a developmental stage! How you react to this stage will impact how long your picky eater stays picky. Most of the time, picky eating starts to go away by around 6 years. Some kids, however, continue to be picky eaters longer.
"One more bite/clean your plate" makes picky eating worse
Early childhood is a critical time for learning behaviors and patterns. When this is applied to food, our interactions with our kids around mealtimes can influence their feeding practices for the rest of their lives. This includes their thoughts and feelings toward particular foods, their ability to listen to their bodies, and to self-regulate their intake.
Help your picky kids eat more variety without negative feeding tactics. Download this picky eating guide to help.
When you are telling your child they must take one bite or that they can't have dessert until they clean their plate, you are telling them two things:
- They should finish their food even if they are no longer hungry
- Their dessert is worth more than their food because it is a reward for eating something they don't want
Both of these things can strain your child's relationship with the food they eat. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, controlling feeding practices were associated with negative outcomes related to both child eating and weight.
I still remember sitting at the table as a child long after the meal ended with three sad green beans on my plate. Any tactic that could be used to get out of eating them I tried. I finally resorted to plugging my nose and swallowing them whole. You know what? I still dislike green beans.
The taste and smell of them take me back to those days sitting at the table for hours. They were the only food I can remember being forced to eat and they are one of the only foods I still do not like. Sound familiar?
Are you over controlling your child's food intake?
Parents and caregivers often feel that controlling the feeding environment by making kids finish their plates, is the best way to get them to eat. Some parents don’t even realize they are controlling, they just want their kiddos to eat.
Many parents feel that if they don't eat enough of their food, they won't grow well. However, this is rarely the case. Creating a healthy feeding environment vs. a controlling one is critical to the development of positive feeding behaviors. This also minimizes picky eating or the duration that picky eating lasts and ultimately is more beneficial for growth and nutrition.
Healthy feeding practices reduce stress and pressure around meals and allow children to learn how to self-regulate their appetite.
"When children feel less pressured at meals, they tend to make better food choices, be more adventurous eaters and be less of a picky eater."
If you want to start making some positive changes, here are 1o ways you can start improving your child's relationship with food and decrease picky eating.
10 simple ways to reduce picking eating
- Model healthy eating practices, if you have other children who are adventurous eaters, they can be a model for their younger siblings too!
- Encourage children to try new foods by providing the opportunity to play, learn, and become comfortable with new food. Not by encouraging them to eat it.
- Never force a child to eat something that they do not want to eat. It doesn't help and it isn't worth it!
- Do not withhold dessert or another food item in exchange for eating food they don't want to eat.
- If your child doesn't want to eat something, tell them "that's okay, you don't have to" and try it again another time.
- Allow children to stop when they are full, no matter what the food is. Don't encourage them to "take one more bite" or clean their plate.
- Remain calm at mealtimes, avoid raising your voice or making demands/negotiations about food. If the meal is getting stressful, take a deep breath and listen to your child's concern, even if it seems ridiculous at the time. Remember, no reaction is the best reaction 🙂
- Include food in sensory games, craft projects or in books to increase familiarity. Exposing them to foods even when they are not eating them is creating comfort.
- A touch, lick or smell of food they don't like is a win!
- Provide consistency of meal and snack times and avoid grazing between those times so kids come to the table with a belly ready to eat.
Do you wish your kids were open to eating new foods?
Let me help you make that happen! Join the Grow A Healthy Eater Community and I'll walk you through the process step by step.