Behavioral problems in children in a cosmopolitan city like Gurgaon – Fussy Eating
Does your kid often reject food or is too choosy on what he/she wants to eat? You are not the only one facing this though this doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Picky eating is usually common in toddler and preschool years. The constant worry whether your child is getting enough nutrition and the stressful meal times can have a huge impact on your day to day life.
Labelling “picky eating” as a bad behaviour is very easy. But it is important to understand the child’s perspective. Fussy or picky eating is just another step in the process of growing up and becoming independent. Understanding their little minds is essential.
- Are they trying to defy you?
- Are they struggling with the meal or texture?
- Have they had any reason to form negative association with food in the past (reflux, choking, other health issues)?
- Are they anxious about trying something new?
- Are they inconsistent (Liking something one day and totally disliking it the next day)?
- Do they refuse to chew?
Once you know the answers to the above questions, it would be easier to handle your fussy eater.
Children grow in phases and their needs can change on a daily basis. Some days what you might perceive as the minimum requirement for the kid is totally different than what he/she actually needs. It is recommended that sometimes the kids be put in charge of deciding how much they should eat. But to have that mindset, you need to be confident that they are healthy and thriving. It is important to get their height, weight and BMI periodically assessed by a paediatrician so that you can have that reassurance.
The following tips might help you get out of the vicious cycle of picky eating.
Let them be independent
Post infancy, babies learn a lot of new things and it is a time of constant change. Its only obvious that they seek “sameness” as much as possible. Consistency helps them feel safe and secure. You can help them try variety by giving them some power. Encourage self-feeding. Offer them safe finger foods. Give them a spoon to hold while you are feeding them. Let your child decide which foods to fill their plates with.
Respect your child’s appetite
Sometimes the child is not that hungry. Do not force a meal or snack. Do not bribe your child. Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child.
Stick to the routine
Serve meals and snacks at about the same time every day. Do not fill him/her up on juice, milk or snacks. Keep mealtimes short (20-30 mins). Put healthy foods where they can reach easily when hungry. Make family mealtimes a priority. Maintain a calm and pleasant attitude throughout a meal. Avoid distractions such as television, cell phones etc during meal times.
Be patient with new foods
Repeated exposure (usually >10 times) is required before he/she takes the first bite. Serve new foods along with your child’s favourite foods. Keep serving him healthy choices until they become familiar & preferred. Try introducing new or non-favourite foods at times different than meals so that they don’t associate the table with unpleasant experiences. Offer only one new food at a time. Make sure that at each meal, there is something your kid knows & likes. Let him/her spill a little. Accept age appropriate mess.
Don’t be a short order cook
Preparing a separate meal for your child after she rejects the original food doesn’t help. Give him/her what the rest of the family is eating in toddler sized portions.
Make food fun!
There can be several visually interesting ways of serving food items. Catchy names like Doraemon’s pancakes or chhota bheem’s carrots will help a lot. Indulge in imaginative rebranding, eg. broccoli is dinosaur’s food. Serve a variety of brightly coloured foods. Create new tastes by pairing low fat dressings & dips with vegetables. Let them be the grocery pickers. Let them help you prepare meals. When they help in making food, chances are very less that they will reject it.
Stop having unrealistic expectations
Your little one’s stomach and clenched fist are of same size. Often, there is a lot of confusion when pediatricians urge you to feed your children a varied diet, including fruits & veggies, to help with their development, but at the same time, they tell you not to worry if your child refuses to eat certain foods. As a parent, your job is to provide your child with healthy food choices & pleasant meals. Leave it to your child to decide which of these healthy foods to eat & how much to eat.
Be a role model
Eat healthy. Avoid showing disgust or disinterest when trying new foods in front of your children.
Remember, you are not alone. Picky eating is temporary. Your child will outgrow it. You just have to be patient. But if you feel that your child is not able to swallow properly or has any health issues or is not growing properly, consult an expert in paediatrics.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we also provide routine paediatric care including vaccinations, management of infectious diseases, advices on nutrition, growth, development and child behaviour.
Visit our consultants to know more.