The Science of Dealing with Picky EatersI gave a presentation on feeding young children to a group of students training to become child care providers. We talked about how to deal with feeding issues. Below is an article from the Science of Parenting blog from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach about picky eaters.
Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don’t eat. However, when parents and children engage in mealtime battles, nobody wins. Instead, parents should focus on preventing power struggles over food.
Most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diet, even if they don’t want to eat particular foods. They may refuse to eat a certain food, or refuse to eat at all. You may think your child is a picky eater. Do not worry. This is a normal part of growing up.
But if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, talk to your health care provider who can help you review your child’s growth. Start a ‘food log’ and keep track of the types and amounts of food your child eats and share that information with your healthcare provider as well.
If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his or her own hunger and fullness cues.
Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her an opportunity to independently ask for more. For example, a serving size of vegetables for very young children is one tablespoon per year of age of child.
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. The child may need to be exposed to a new food multiple times before trying it.
Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.
Create a relaxing mealtime environment and avoid creating a situation where a power struggle may occur. Remember to model healthy eating behaviors and strategies for removing distractions like television and electronic gadgets during mealtime.
Your child’s eating habits won’t change overnight, but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.
Source: Lori Hayungs, Human Science Specialist In Family Live, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach