Everyone has different eating habits, and it's fair to say that almost all of us have experienced a Picky Eater at some point in our lives. Picky Eaters happen at every single age. You may have a friend who is particular about their food, and we can even find them in our little ones at home.
Children that are picky eaters can be overwhelming to deal with, but understanding why can help work through the frustration.
I'll be really honest. Picky Eating is not a bad thing. Kids, like you and I, have their own likes and dislikes. That's okay. Being a Picky Eater is partly based on evolution as well. We were ingrained to be cautious around food because, well, some things could kill us!
Many things can trigger Picky Eaters:
✅ foods that touch
✅ mixing foods together
✅ not knowing what the food is
✅ being intolerant to the food
Understand that your child will change their preferences over time. Be patient as new foods become favourites while they also discover things they don't like.
You should be concerned about your child's Picky Eating and seek help with their behaviour when:
🚨Your child is experiencing weight loss
🚨Complete food groups are being avoided
🚨Your child gets upset over unfamiliar foods
🚨Anxious feelings occur in your child when it's meal time
🚨When away from home, your child worries about food
These things may cause you to start making special food for them and you may get upset or frustrated about their eating.
As parents, we have many concerns as our kids grow. Having conversations and learning skills while the kids are young will help parents with some of these common concerns.
You can implement some different strategies to help with increasing your child's competence around food.
Remove pressure of any kind.
Pressure can be positive and negative, but both end up having a negative impact on our children. Positive pressure can look like praising, reminding, and using food as a reward. Negative pressure can look like punishing, restricting, and criticizing.
Focus on the quality of the food your child is eating.
Ensure there are various choices that your child can choose from and allow your child to select from what's offered. Without pressure, let your child decide what they will eat and how much they will eat.
Create a pleasant atmosphere at mealtime.
Keep the conversations light and ask them about something funny that happened at school. No one feels good when they are critiqued for their choices or for how much they're eating. Having a supportive and positive atmosphere to eat in makes a huge difference. Research shows that we eat about 30% more food when we are enjoying our company.
Share mealtime with your child, with the same food selection.
Yes, busy mom. I see you. I get you. We all feel like we can quickly throw a quick load of laundry in or clean the kitchen while our kids eat. But you're missing out on valuable and important time. Our children learn from us, including our eating habits. When they watch you enjoy food - even broccoli - they are encouraged to give broccoli a try. Maybe not today, but the idea gets planted. So please sit with your child, enjoy your food, and have some fun conversation.
Allow your child to listen to their bodies.
Say it with me: "No more asking my kids to eat one more bite, two more bites, or even seven more bites". Comments and language like this can eventually lead to your child no longer listen to their own hunger and fullness cues. Trust that your child knows how much food they need. Even as scary as that may seem, it is how we as parents can encourage our children to listen to their bodies and what they need.
Offer, offer, offer.
Kids may like a new food you serve the first time, but that's probably unlikely. New foods can seem scary, and that feeling is entirely normal. Instead, continue to offer foods that they haven't accepted yet with no pressure to eat them. It may take 20 times or 100 times before they are willing to eat that food. Let them have time and space to learn.