Every parent knows how easy mealtimes can suddenly become a mental and physical battlefield. One day, children are cooperative and eat whatever is served in front of them. But the next day, they will cross their arms, turn their heads away from the table, and refuse to touch a single morsel on their plates. Parents then have no choice but to use every trick in the book to make them finish their meals, from sweet-talking and bribing snacks to pressuring them with thinly veiled threats of no playtime and television. The blood, sweat, and tears due to the negotiations are almost akin to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy – a pain in the head without proper knowledge and guidance.
There are many reasons why children become picky eaters, especially when they become toddlers. It is at this age that they are developing their food preferences, exploring the different colors, flavors, and textures available for them. The process of experimentation might be suitable for the toddler’s development but are serious headaches for the parents. While parents want to respect their children’s choices, they also have to make sure that proper nutrition and portion control are followed.
The kinds of picky eaters are not created equal. Knowing which category one’s child is under can help in addressing the problem and figuring out what to do. Here are some of the most common types and strategies parents can follow for the next mealtime.
Never gets tired of eating just one type of food
The one-food toddler will only eat their desired food and ignore the existence of others. You’re a lucky parent if their favorite turns out to be healthy like vegetables and fruits. But what if it’s something laden with copious amounts of sugar and salt like cakes and fried chicken?
It will be tempting to force-feed the child with other foods and impose a ban on their preference. However, this will only create tension and rebellion in the toddler. It is better to keep offering a variety of choices on the table, even if it can get rejected at first. According to research done by nutrition professor Sharon Donovan, children need at least ten exposures to a new food before they start trying it out. Parents have to hold out until then instead of giving up already.
Hates vegetables with a passion
It’s a running gag in media how children dislike eating broccoli and brussels sprouts, finding ways to keep them off the plate such as throwing them on the ground or feeding them to their pet dog. This hatred is also felt even if they haven’t tried the vegetables in the first place. The texture and bitterness of vegetables are the two main culprits of why children find them off-putting, especially when they are only boiled and stir-fried.
Parents can help children warm up to the taste by roasting vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness and adding sauces to hide their natural flavor. Dips like cheese, ranch dressing, and hummus are also reasonable solutions.
Loves drinks more than food
Children who would rather drink milk and juice instead of eating can become deficient in their nutrition intake. Most beverages are also high in sugar and processed ingredients. Young children have this habit because they want to go back to playing as soon as possible. After all, drinking their meals is faster than sitting down and eating.
Parents must limit their children’s liquid calories, keeping them at four to six ounces a day. Offering only water will also help break the habit. If the child is eager to play, parents can set a timer for ten minutes and ask them to stay at the table, whether they have eaten or not. That creates a routine that they will get used to.
Mealtimes don’t have to be a tug of war between the parent and child. Knowing the kind of picky eater one has will help shed light on what the parent should do to break the habit.