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eating habits of kids, picky eaters, child health

What makes kids picky eaters and what may help them get over it

Picky-eating toddlers are common in every family. Generally, the peak age for fussy eating behaviours in a child is 3 years. A survey on the topic carried out on 4,000 children concluded that the majority of the kids are picky eaters at one time or the other. But, just the condolence that your child is not the only picky eater will not work for you. 

You might feel the stress once your kid gets into the habit of throwing tantrums at the dinner table. Before looking at the tips for your fussy-eating toddler, it is necessary for you to know the root cause of the problem.

The reason behind your kid’s fussy eating habits 

In the very first place, you should know that there are different environmental influences and biological factors that can make kids move away from healthy eating habits. We will have a look at them below: 

Eating habits at home 

The home eating environment has an important role to play in influencing selective eating behaviours in a child. Simply put, children get accustomed to eating foods that are frequently on their dinner table. They become familiar with and even start accepting general food groups and specific dishes that the family eats together. 

For example, if your child gets into the habit of having salty pasta with a bit of variation in spices, veggies, and proteins, he or she might not like having anything other than that. In the same way, if you offer dessert at the end of a meal, your child will always expect sugary treats after meals. So, the kid will ultimately develop an irresistible craving for sugar. 

Innate tastes 

Several studies over the years show that people have this natural bend towards salty and sweet snacks – and children are no exception. Given a choice, a child of almost any age will reach out for innately satisfying food. This can be something sweet or salty over something bitter, bland or sour. 

Tips for picky eaters and toddlers

Regardless of the causes behind your picky-eating toddler, the question remains, what do you need to do? Some tips that can help you out are as follows: 

Try eating at specific times 

Rather than having lunch with the entire family at 1 pm only to switch to 2 pm the next day, meals and snacks should be offered at a set time regularly. The best way to go about this is to allot a particular time for meals and at least two snack-times during the entire day.

In between meal times, your child should just have water and nothing else. This way, he or she will remain hydrated and not be full before mealtime. So, you will have a hungry child at the table. 

Making mealtimes fun and pleasant 

Your kid’s willingness to taste a certain food will completely depend on the environment. Low-stress and pleasant mealtimes can be of good help here. Work on making mealtimes social, regular, and happy occasions. Do not worry about spilled food or drinks on the floor. 

When preparing healthy food for picky eaters, starting small will help to a considerable extent. Guide your child on trying out new food and praise him for making an attempt. Do not force your kid into trying any food he doesn’t want to. Ignoring your fussy eater will encourage him or her to keep away from this habit. 

Distractions are a big no

Snacks and meals are essential for children. Therefore, they should have them properly and in adequate proportions. Distractions like computers, mobile phones, and television might not help them develop healthy eating habits. Mealtime should typically involve having food and interacting with the entire family. 

Books, toys, music and TV are for playtime and not for mealtime. Make sure your child is away from these distractions if you want to change their fussy eating habit. 

Go for variety 

Of course, you must look for variety in the food you serve. But this does not mean you must make compromises on choosing healthy food for picky eaters. Try offering different types of fruits and vegetables along with foods high in their protein content such as deboned fish and meat. Serve these to your child at least twice during the week. 

An important tip for fussy-eating toddlers is to guide your child in exploring new food textures and flavours. Also, work your way out in minimising waste. If you are introducing them to any new food, start with small quantities. You also need to wait for at least one week before offering the same food all over again. 

FAQs

Ques: How do I stop being picky eating? 

Ans: Always keep in mind that kids love choosing what they want to have for a meal. So, it will work for you to ask your child about his preferences.

Of course, you must plan a balanced meal for your kid while taking his choices into account. If you factor in your child’s food preferences every day, with time, he will stop being a picky eater. 

Ques: How do picky eaters change habits?

Ans: Picky eaters will change their habits only if they get small portions of healthy food regularly. Parents have to acknowledge that improving food habits in children is a gradual process and requires a fair amount of time.

To make the process easier, you can play into your child’s tendency to imitate you. As a parent, you can be a role model for their healthy eating habits. Your toddler will learn to eat things you eat and soon give up the habit of being a fussy eater. 

Conclusion 

Picky eaters are not just children who do not like to eat fruits or vegetables. They may also have a habit of eating the same food repeatedly. So, you need to follow these tips for picky eaters and toddlers and plan accordingly to change their practices. 

As a parent, it is quite natural to be concerned about the health and diet of your child. Understand that being selective around food is normal during the developmental stages of a toddler. Patiently guide your kid on the path towards healthy and nutritious eating. 

If nothing seems to be working, consult a pediatrician. They can help in troubleshooting problems and ensure that your child has a balanced and nutritious diet regularly. 

Related Read: Taking Care of Your Fussy Eating Toddlers

Author: Dr Saurabh Khanna
Dr. Saurabh Khanna is one of the leading neonatologists and paediatricians in Gurgaon. He has earned this reputation through his 14 years of clinical experience in some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country. His expertise lies in managing critically sick neonates and neonatal emergencies.
 
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