If your little one is a picky eater at home, we understand your stress. You’re constantly worrying if your child is getting the right nutrition and if they are on the right growth track. It’s not easy when you literally have to struggle with your children every day during mealtime.
It’s only normal to think that the fussy eating habit is just a phase and something your child will grow out of soon.
Now, if you are wondering how to deal with fussy eaters, we can help you with some easy tips. Here’s what you should know about identifying your child’s fussiness over food and if it is something to ignore or does it require medical intervention.
How To Deal With Fussy Eaters? The Picky Eater Test
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Picky eating habits are common in children who are about 15 months and this stays till they get to the age of four. Paediatrician Dr Leah Alexander explains that as long as kids are present as picky eaters as opposed to problem feeders, “you are experiencing a common struggle. In fact, some of them are just inherent to toddlers.”
The problem with picky eaters is that after the age of four years, some of them just take to eating unhealthy foods. As a result of which, they have dental issues and obesity problems from a very young age.
They eat foods that are low in fibre and protein. In fact, most of the kids develop carb-heavy diets and it goes without saying that a child needs a balanced meal to spurt their growth.
Picky Eater Or Problem Feeder?
Now, if you are confused and unable to figure out if your child is a picky eater or a problem feeder, here are seven points that you can refer to.
These parameters are used by health practitioners to determine the eating pattern of your child.
Tolerance to new food
Can tolerate introduction to new foods
They will have a meltdown when new food is introduced. They will cry, scream and throw tantrums
Ability to learn to eat new food
Learns to eat new foods in 20-25 steps on a Steps to Eating Hierarchy
They require more than 25 to learn to eat new foods
Number of foods eaten when presented
A picky eater will regularly eat more than 30 different foods.
A problem feeder will eat less than 20.
Loss of food from food range
Foods lost due to “burn out” from Food Jagging are usually eaten again after a two-week break
They will not eat foods lost due to “burn out” from food jagging after a break
Ability to eat foods from all categories (Includes both texture and nutrition)
They will eat at least one food from most, all nutrition or texture groups
They will reject entire categories of food based on texture or nutrition group
Ability to eat the same foods as their family
Frequently eats the same food at a meal as other family members. They mostly have their meal along with their family.
Almost always eats different sets of foods than their family. They will often eat at a different time and place away from their family
Duration of pickiness
Sometimes reported by parents as a “picky eater” at well-child check-ups
Persistently reported by parents to be a “picky eater” at multiple well-child check-ups
Courtesy: Star Institute/Dr Kay A. Toomey
Dr Alexander mentions that problem feeding is largely present in kids who have been diagnosed with speech delays, autism and sensory issues.
As parents, you need to watch your kids carefully. Don’t ignore any signs which you may feel are not normal. Consult your doctor immediately. Timely medical intervention will help your kids in the long run.
Now, before you start working on your kid’s eating habits, sit down and analyse yours. Your attitude towards food also plays a big role in how they treat their food.
For instance, kids tend to be less picky when you have introduced them to a variety of foods, including healthy food choices. Even if they are in their picky eating phase, at max, they can stop eating a particular food for some time. But their overall diet is healthy. So here are ways you can deal with your picky eaters.
3 Tips To Deal With Fussy Eaters
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Presentation and creativity matters
Anything presented well will catch your child’s attention, whether it is a play on colour or shapes. So the next time you prep their meal – one that has ingredients they particularly don’t like – focus on the presentation.
For instance, your kid might not be fond of beetroot. So if you grind it to make cutlets and present it with a ketchup-infused smiley heart on top, they’ll want to gobble it up in no time. Try to add as many nutritious ingredients in meals as possible: grinding, making a paste or garnishing are smart ways of infusing such ingredients.
Start with small portions
Always start with small portion sizes. You may feel that they are not getting their right nutrition, so a large portion will help, but that’s a wrong approach.
When you are giving your child large portions, it may overwhelm them and they may refuse to eat it owning to the size of the serving. In some cases, it may even encourage the child to eat more than they can digest.
Once they are done with the small portions, then move on to an increased portion size.
Involve your kids in meal planning
Here is one of the most effective tips to deal with fussy eaters – let them take part in meal planning. Get them involved in cooking, shopping and also in finalising your menu. Take their opinion to make them feel valued in the decision-making process.
You can allow them to pick up the vegetables they want for their meals. Take this time to also educate them about the nutrition in each of the vegetables that they pick.
So, plan to make their mealtime fun, and not a routine exercise. Switch off the electronic gadgets or any other forms of distraction so that they can concentrate on their food.
Mums, we understand it can be quite stressful as you struggle to introduce different flavours on your picky eater’s palate, but please be patient. Don’t lose your temper and don’t pressurise them to finish their food. Research suggests that pressuring your child to consume food can increase their pickiness and cause your child to eat less.
Don’t forget to instil in your kids the importance of valuing food and never waste any.