How to feed picky eaters

24 May 2017

Dear friend,

The little man has always been a poor eater and I have always worried about his diet. It has caused many arguments at lunch or dinner over the last few years but as a former picky eater myself I have always tried to defend him.

I have really bad memories of being forced to sit at the table until I had eaten everything on my plate and being forced to try things that to me tasted like perfume. I never wanted my son to have these negative experiences! But lately the pickiness is becoming even more of a problem with tears at the table (not just his) and arguments beginning. I am starting to dread meal times as I know what is ahead.

I take some consolation in the fact that I am not the only mum worried about their children's eating habits. Most mums of babies and toddlers have worries about their diet or how much they are eating. However, when our children become tweens we expect this to become easier, don't we? So how can I prevent the mealtime battles in my home?

1. Don't force children to eat
If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. This will just start a power struggle over food and your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety.

2. Serve small portions
Don't overload plates, serve smaller portions and encourage children to ask for more.

3. Have a routine
Schedule meal and snack times and only allow water between. Don't allow your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day as this might decrease their appetite at meal times.

Photo courtesy of small talking

4. Gradually introduce new foods
Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Serve new foods along with your child's favorite foods.

5. Be creative
Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Add finely chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce.

6. Involve your child
When shopping get your child to pick out the fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.

7. Set a good example
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.

8. Minimize distractions
Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals to help your child focus on eating.

9. Make one meal
Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat.

10. Be patient

Bad habits won't change overnight but by making small changes can help promote a better, more healthy eating habit.

There are definitely some things that we need to work on. Although we have a routine and try our best to involve our little man in selecting and making food he has very little interest. We do minimize distractions too but our portion sizes are probably too large and we also make separate meals specifically for him. There is definitely room for improvement especially in relation to snacking. I really like the idea of serving new foods alongside your child's favourite ones.

I also read that if you have concerns you should look at the big picture and that making a diary of your child's food intake could help as they may be eating more that you realise. Our little man is quite small for his age but he is growing well according to the Dr. I hope that these changes will help to make our mealtimes more peaceful. I'll keep you informed!

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Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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