What If Your Child Is a Picky Eater?
Since the days of yore, we are taught that healthy eating is important if we are to grow strong and able. Those of us who have followed this sage advice and have reaped its benefits are the intent of sharing the wisdom with our children, but there’s one thing that gets in our way: children simply tend to be very picky with their food.
Contrary to what some of us may believe in, it is very common for children to be very particular about the food they eat. This should not come as a surprise to parents like us who are more well-informed about the development of their children’s behavior.
Children that we call picky eaters tend just to choose to eat a certain type of food, all while ignoring everything else as though they’re inedible stuff. Sometimes, at certain points of their development, a child end up choosing to eat in very small amounts, eat only one specific food for a period, refuse to try different foods, or straight up not eat at all.
Now there are also children who have certain fixations when it comes to food. Often, they’d only eat food that is prepared in a very specific manner. For example, they’d require that their bread is sliced horizontally, or that the foods on their plate are evenly spaced. Although this sounds eerily similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder, this is something that we should not worry about as it is normal behavior for young children.
How so? Well, at this point in their lives, children are still undergoing a process of experimentation with their food preferences. They will often just play with their food more than they eat it. Observant parents will notice that experimenting children would rather eat a lot of snacks in a day than consume full meals, which they are often unwilling to do. Only a small portion of the meal sometimes ends up eaten; at times, the floor gets all the food. Parents should not be alarmed if they notice their children exhibit such behavior, as all these will come to pass shortly. You can see this with the fact that children’s feeding behavior tend to be erratic and not consistent. You can observe your child eating a certain type of food in the past few days, and in the next, they’ll eat something else or nothing at all.
Some parents, having observed their child’s apparent unhealthy dietary habits, set up rules and tell their children what to eat and what they should not, all to steer them to the right eating path. Now why is this a mistake, you ask? Well, this is practically controlling your child’s eating habits, unhealthily forcing down your idea of a healthy diet down their throats. This will result in a power struggle between you and your child over food, both of you assertive of your ideals. As you can see, this will make it more difficult for you to reach out to your child with regards to healthy eating.
What should you do then? Give your child the freedom to eat what they want to eat, when to eat, and where they want to eat. In other words, let them do as they please with food. That’s not spoiling them mind you, but merely giving them the freedom to experiment and develop their food preferences. This will also give them the opportunity to fine tune their senses to the needs of their body, helping them learn to eat when they need it rather than simply going with their instinctive, random cravings.
You should keep giving them the option of eating healthy food. If they shun that plate of vegetables that you have carefully prepared, be sure that it does not get to your feelings. Remember that the child is merely experimenting, and if you keep giving them healthy food as an option, they will eventually try it out and probably even like it.
Be sure to observe your child’s eating preferences as well. Each child is unique, and as they develop the taste for a certain kind of food, make sure that you adjust to it. For example, you can give them vegetables with meat substitutes prepared in the same way as their favorite dish. Remember to make it fun for them and give them room to choose what to eat and the manner in which they eat. Take cues from their behavior and use that information to steer them to a healthy diet.
You should also keep your child open to dialogue discussing healthy food while they are young. Give them fun lessons explaining the different kinds of food stuff and how those can affect them. You should also teach them the types of food that are good for them in a fun manner. Practice what you preach as well so as to set an excellent example for them to follow.