When a child is picky it not only makes mealtime difficult but may make it feel impossible. Here are a few pointers to help make mealtimes both healthy and enjoyable.
As a caregiver you decide what is served, when it is served and where it is served.
What: Keep them interested with different foods in different ways at each meal. If the child requests the same thing for several weeks or months, continue offering it with a variety of foods from all four food groups and do not get concerned as long as it is nutritious. Serve new foods in small portions along with familiar food. Each exposure to a new food increases the likelihood they will eventually try it; looking, smelling, and touching count as exposure.
When: Set regular meal and snack times. Avoid grazing to avoid having the child come to the table already full.
Where: Seat children at the table securely in a high chair or booster seat. Avoid distractions during mealtime such as TV or toys.
The child’s only responsibility at meal time is to decide if and how much to eat of the food they’re served. Their appetite will vary depending on growth spurts, activity level, and whether they are tired or ill. Trust that they know when they are hungry and when they are full.
Children should look forward to mealtime. Do your best to keep it pleasant and relaxed. Avoid using praise, rewards, tricks, or punishments to encourage eating as they may not eat well if they feel pressure.
If the child is growing well, eating from all four food groups, and seems healthy and happy, then don’t worry about the occasional skipped meal. Only offer supplements if directed by a healthcare provider.
For more tips on dealing with picky eaters and healthy meal and snack ideas visit www.eatrightontario.ca. You can also speak with a Registered Dietitian for free at 1-877-510-510-2