Have you been wondering if you can prevent your toddler from becoming a picky eater? Well good news, you can! Let’s face it: you really don’t want your child to stick to the “white diet” of strictly rice, pasta, and bread. Furthermore, do you really want to have to cook the same few things for your child day after day? Probably not. Well, here is everything you need to know about how to prevent picky eating:
Where Does Picky Eating Come From?
It’s no secret that most children tend to enter a phase of picky eating. According to Lee Gibson, PhD, director of the Clinical and Health Psychology Research Centre at University of Roehampton in London, it is important to remember that picky or fussy eating among young kids is completely normal. Additionally, overreacting and implementing strict diet rules can be counterproductive and only tend to make matters worse.
Studies show that fussy eating habits can be linked to anything from social influences, to personality traits, to parental control at mealtimes. Or it really could just be your kid being a kid. With that being said, picky eating can really stem from anything, so the best way to handle it is to stay ahead of the game!
Strategies To Prevent A Picky Eater
1. Introduce your child to a variety of foods right from the start.
The earlier you expose your child to different flavors, the more likely they will like it and continue to eat it. It is also important to constantly change up the menu so your child doesn't become used to only eating certain foods. So, don’t just stop at the peas, but introduce your child to other things like carrots and kale as well. Depending on how early you want to expose your child to new foods, just consult your pediatrician first if you want to begin with them as an infant.
2. Be a good model for healthy habits.
Babies learn by watching your behavior. Therefore, it is vital that you set a good example for them. If they see you eating healthy, colorful foods, then they will be more inclined to do so as well. Pulling their high chair up to the dinner table while you’re enjoying your meal will also help them along with this learning process.
3. Have them try foods with different textures and sizes.
Having your child experience foods of all shapes, textures, and sizes will help them understand that food comes in all forms. You can give them their food in a range of sizes from bite size pieces they can hold between their fingers, to larger sticks (think carrot sticks) they can hold in their entire hand. As for textures, you can start with smoother foods like yogurt and puree, and move to more solid foods like chunky stews. Fortunately, with the holidays just around the corner, you have the perfect opportunity to expose your child to a number of foods—from your favorite sweet potato mash to your homemade, family-recipe cranberry sauce!
4. Refrain from bribing.
If your child is a little bit older, it can be very tempting to bribe them with something like dessert just to have them finish their meal. However, this can lead them to have a negative association with their food. In fact, studies show that pressuring a child to eat affects their ability to self regulate their eating habits. Essentially, their sense of “fullness” can be dulled and will therefore inhibit their natural instincts. Think about it this way: if you are telling your child that they can have something “yummy” after their food, you are basically confirming that the food on their plate is not so tasty.
5. Respect your child’s limits.
Ultimately, exposing your child to many different foods in order to prevent picky eating can be a great thing, but it is important not to push their limits. Recognize when they are full in order to maintain healthy eating habits. This can teach them mindful eating, which they will carry on with them as they continue to age.
If you liked this blog, then go ahead and check out How to Teach Your Children Kindness and Empathy to learn more about implementing healthy habits in your child’s life.