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Meal time with a picky eater can be very stressful. All parents want their children to be healthy and happy, and when your child tends to only want to eat one or two foods, this can cause undue anxiety for both the parents and the child. It can be tough to see all your friends posting pictures of their kiddos eating kale and hummus while your child is begging for fries and chicken nuggets, but the good news is that you are not alone in this. Many families struggle with getting their child to eat a variety of foods, and having a choosy eater is more normal than social media might make you think. All parents want their children to eat a healthy and nutritious diet, and there are ways to help your child explore more food choices.

Picky Eating is Common – Here’s Why:

It can be easy to feel like you have been dealt a bad hand when your child is “impossible” at meal time, but many children are not adventurous in their eating habits, which is actually developmentally appropriate. A study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that nearly 50% of parents identified their toddler as a picky eater. As children mature out of infancy, they develop a sense of independence and desire for control. For many children, choosy eating is one way they are testing out their control over their lives. If we understand that this is a natural part of the developmental process, then this can help to ease the feeling of worry and tension that can be present at meal time. The first step to assisting your child in choosing more variety in their diet is to defuse the built-up tension that can be heightened when you feel the pressure to make them eat in a particular way.

5 Practical and Proven Steps:

  1. Involve your children in the cooking and prepping process. There is a large body of research that shows that children are more likely to have a positive attitude about mealtime and are more willing to try new foods when they are involved in the task of prepping, from washing vegetables, to measuring, or helping meal plan.
  2. Model best practices. By simply exposing your child to your own healthy eating habits, they are more likely to choose those habits in the future. If you want your child to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you need to do so yourself.
  3. Repeat exposure of foods. 10 – 15 tastes of a food are needed to get your child to like a new food. Rather than making him or her finish all of their broccoli, simply offer a taste of the food and repeat that process over the next few days. This can be a tedious process, but will prove to be beneficial in the end.
  4. Respect when your child is hungry or not. We often force our children to eat and this can add more pressure at the table. There are times when your child is simply not hungry or cannot finish his food. Long gone are the days of having to clear your plate. Serve smaller portions and understand that eating to satisfy is one of the best lifelong eating habits we can instill in our children.
  5. Offer a variety of healthy options. If you do not want your child to eat pizza, do not make that an option. While you might offer hummus, carrots and grapes as a snack and they always devour the grapes, that is still a better option than fruit snacks. If you also apply rule number 3, then before you know it – the hummus and veggies will be gone too!

Above all else, remember that the days can seem long as a parent, but the years tend to fly by. This means that unless you feel your child has a nutritional deficit, time will help to ease the struggles at mealtime. If you are worried or have any questions about your child’s eating habits, we are here at Our Urgent Care to answer any questions you may have.