Dealing With Picky Eaters And Instilling Healthy Eating Habits
As mothers, we are always judged for our kids built, height and weight and it is almost ingrained that eating or feeding our children is or should be topping in our list of parenting and it definitely adds to the many worries of parents.
There is no doubt that no appetite or fussy eating can hamper growth and mood of a child. So it is a constant effort to make the child eat all the food for nourishment and appropriate growth and learning that a growing child would need for the right growth and development of the child.
Some children are extremely picky about eating that can cause a lot of worry with mothers and parents, as pleasing the child to eat can be a daunting experience and further build frustration and anger and results in uncalled for or unnecessary tensions in moms making meal time, battle times!!
Below are a few tips and tricks that can come in handy to make your situation better:
- Being patient and persistent:
Being patient with the child is the key. Keeping calm and trying to get into the kid’s perspective can reduce the tension. The taste buds are regenerated every 15 days so one food that was disliked may not stay so for long.
- 2. Introduce to all the tastes early on:
Ideally it is best to introduce to all the tastes at a very young age. That is during the infant stage so that they can adjust to all the different food flavors’. Formula fed babies can have difficulty accepting new tastes easily so it is a good idea to start various foods that a household has in the form that suits an infant. For example feeding roti or chapati soaked in milk/ fruit pulp/vegetable pulp/dal after 10 months of age.
Introduce sweet, salt, spicy and bitter or sour taste in moderation using the most common veggies and fruits that are usually consumed in the house.
- Include varieties in everyday cooking:
Although each house has a set of staple food, that is commonly eaten everyday, it would be a good idea to include seasonal and regional vegetables and fruits in various forms like curries, dals, gravy, salad, dips, sauces, chutneys and desserts that are healthy and provide the body with all the necessary nourishment and can keep the energy level and mood of kids high.
Note that the curries and gravies should be tailor made to kids/ child needs -not too spicy that the child can’t eat nor too bland that child ends up hating it.(keep a portion separate while you cook and then add spice and condiments as per your need)
A tip that you can follow if your kid is picky about eating a certain food and not eating other food would be to conceal certain veggies he/ she hates into a roti wrap or make roti with that vegetable puree for example if tinda is not liked you can cook and mash it and then add it to wheat flour and make rotis with it and they end up being soft and your kid will enjoy. This can be done with carrot, spinach, potato, cauliflower, broccoli etc. Occasionally make puris.
- Salads - Not just for adults but even kids enjoy eating raw veggies. If infants they can be given a piece of carrot, cucumber to chew on. Once they can chew you can give them snacks.
- Boiled chana, tomato, cucumber and nuts like peanuts, almonds and walnuts can be included with pepper, salt and a dash of lime juice sprinkled with chopped coriander.
- Fruit salad with seasonal varieties can be prepared and fed. Occasional treats like popsicles can be given to them
- Freshly extracted juice or fruit pulp, soups can be given as instant energy booster snacks.
- Fermented foods like idli, dosa, curd, buttermilk can be included in everyday meals in various forms.
- Traditional idli and dosa can be turned into special treats with cheese, paneer, mixed vegetable filling, chutney podi etc.
- Include desi ghee, milk, paneer, egg, fish etc in adequate quantities for better skin, hair, bone and joint health.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin, apricots, dates, peanuts etc can be made into delicious nutri balls/ladoos that kids love to eat.
- Inclusion of legumes, lentils, rice everyday in varieties can be good sources of carbs, proteins and fibre requirements.
- Inclusion of millets like ragi, bajra, jowar, foxtail millets, proso millet, quinoa, chia seeds etc can be used in place of rice / wheat.
- Making home cooked food fun is a good way to cultivate a good eating habit among toddlers, as habits at a young age are likely to stay.
- . Be a role model for your kid/child:
Remember that your child is observing you and doing all that we do and hence setting the right example by eating the above mentioned foods and more in front of them can encourage them to choose those foods and over time enjoy those meal times.
- Try to eat what you want your child to eat.
- Don’t express strong likes and dislikes for any food or vegetable which even they can be influenced with.
- Check for your preferences of food as some choices can run in genes too. Try to mould yourself to consuming those items too.
- Don’t constantly nag them or label them as picky eaters or otherwise as they tend to believe it and problems can continue.
- Make them responsible for their choices:
Taking kids grocery shopping and veggie and fruit shopping and allowing them to choose from the store about the choice of items can promote a sense of responsibility in them about it.
- Deeper knowledge about the source of food and its general benefits can promote food interests in fussy children.
- You can guide them about the importance of eating for good teeth, strong bones and good growth like their favorite person or cartoon character can make them feel the need to eat too.
- Include them in activities like peeling, cutting, identifying, to create interest in them and eventually eating them.
- You can allow them to participate in the act of cooking so that they can also feel and see the amount of energy and time and skill that goes into making a dish.
- As parents you can also set a certain reward for finishing a meal. like giving a star. Although don’t make this a regular habit and don’t give sweets/ desserts/ junk as reward as that can give them the wrong impression of food choices.
- Make mealtimes fun:
- Have a routine for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack so that they are aware of the drill.
- Make them place the items like plate/jugs/jars based on their age and capabilities.
- Have a plate designated for them so that they can eat their meal in their favorite plate/bowl.
- Get creative with food presentations.
- Have meal varieties like pickle, rice, rasam, chapati, subzi, curd etc so that they can eat at least 2 items from that each meal and also alter them according to season. They will see other members eating that and get used to being comfortable eating that item and respect others' choices also.
- Have encouraging conversation and positive words for a child to finish their plate and congratulate on finishing. You know how moms come up with various rewards of words. Be as creative and as possible in keeping their interest in finishing their meals. All family members can provide words of encouragement and appreciation for the same. Ultimately all human beings crave for attention. Give them that.
- At times it is necessary to be assertive. Be that as per the need.
- Do not fill your food counter with lots of goodies for them always. So that they know if they don’t eat their meal they have nothing else to eat.
- Indulgence, celebrations and special days also should be there and allow the child to enjoy their favorite candy or cake or pizza at home or outside.
- Have a check on their favorite and not so favorite form of food and make it likable for them on most days.
- Don’t be a quick fix mom everytime they say no to a certain dish. Try to make it work by feeding them narrating an interesting story (I do this all the time and the bowl is empty very soon), simple toy, puzzle or friends potluck or so.
- Get creative:
- -Use your creativity or use pinterest, food blogs or books to make foods interesting looking.
- Make alphabets, vehicles of roti, dosa etc.
- Animals from fruits or vegetables/ salads.
- Mix two or more ingredients, herbs for the taste they like.
- Use bowls, plates, spoons that can encourage them to eat.
- Use a reward system.
- Indulge in play and give them limited options to choose from.
- Listen to them and plan your meals as per their need too.
- Get them to snack on traditional items too like chikkis, ladoos, papads etc
- Gratitude and prayer:
Some values are best inculcated young. Saying a prayer of gratitude for food and the awareness that some people do not have it can also make them feel the need to reduce food wastage and importance of food.
- Psychological Needs:
Some picky food habits and picky eating are psychological and need attention at specific pain points. Parents and caretakers should speak to the child or try to understand their psychological needs and few steps can be taken in that regard to correct the problem, look for positive parenting solutions.
Sometimes all the food and meals cannot meet the daily requirements of infants and children and hence they can be given multivitamin syrup, malt drinks, energy drinks, milk etc can be given as per the advice of the pediatrician.
- Final Note to parents:
As long as your kid is active and is not showing any signs and symptoms of learning disabilities or growth dysfunction you can be rest assured they are well fed and you need not fret or worry unnecessarily.
Shweta is a food blogger, youtuber and a podcaster – food and living Shwetha and finds passion in cooking healthy recipes. A mom of a busy boy aged 5 and likes to include a lot of hands on activities for him as a learning tool and skill development. Having many passions also work as content writer (love expressing through writing), translator. She is a pharmacist and HR.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.