Tips To Develop Healthy Eating Habits in Picky Eaters
Vega Schools, Gurgaon
My baby is a picky eater. All day I am after her to make her eat. Sounds familiar. Don’t worry. You are not alone. I am also dealing with this with my girls.
Picky eating can be stressful for parents. Fluctuations in appetite and preferences of a child is a normal thing. This becomes a cause of concern when the child is not eating enough to get proper nutrition for growth and development of the body. First of all, it never pays to panic, as it will lead to stress in both the parent and the child. Sooner or little later, this phase will go and the child will learn to eat.
Here are some tips, which we can try to make this phase easy:
1} Routine: Try to follow a set routine. There should be a set time for meals and snacks. This way the body knows that it is time for food and it starts releasing enzymes. When the child is hungry she will at least try to eat whatever is served. Cut back on unhealthy snacking so that the child is really hungry at meal time.
2} Family Time: Try to eat meals together as a family as much as possible. Serve the same food to everyone and please resist making anything special for the child, if she is not eating. Make the child eat whatever is served, be it a little portion or just a bite to try.
We can take the child along for grocery and vegetable shopping. Engage them in meal planning and preparation too. This will increase their interest in food.
3} Patience: We have to be patient enough in this phase. It can take ten or more exposures for a child to eat and then start liking a particular food. So we have to keep trying.
We also have to understand that appetite can vary at times. For example if a child had a heavy breakfast she may not feel very hungry during lunch time, so we can serve a light lunch.
4} Fun element: We can try making a particular food look cute or beautiful enough for a child to try. For example: we can cut fruits in cute shapes using a cookie cutter and make something cute out of them.Make sticks of carrot and cucumber. Add spinach puree to make green roti or poori or idli and beetroot puree to make it red.
5} Praise don’t bribe: Whenever a child tries a new food, praise him. “Well done, you did it, well tried”, can be used. Bribing with some favourite foods will not help you in the long term. Giving terms like “healthy”to fruits and vegetables and “yummy” to chocolates and cookies etc will make the child gobble “healthy” food just to get “yummy” food, so avoid this.
Begging a child to eat or punishing him is not advisable. We can ask, “ does your tummy have space for one more bite?” and respect their appetite. Force feeding never helps. Child can even vomit out, if force fed. This can become a negative emotion for them to add with meal time.
6} Role Model: We parents have to become role models for our kids, so that they can follow us. Eat healthy. Eat whatever is served. We should not talk about dieting or avoiding some food items in front of our young kids. They will think it is ok to exclude these food items from their diet too.
7} Offer Variety: We can introduce one or two new foods a week. Always add new food with a food that the child likes. For example, if you want to include a new vegetable, add it in lunch with their favourite dal and rice. Make that veg once a week, then twice a week. Even if they start with just one bite, it is a good sign.
8} Take help of spices and condiments: We have a lot of them in India. Use them to add taste. Sweet potato fries will taste great with chat masala. Broccoli’’s taste can be enhanced with cheese sauce. Carrot and cucumber sticks can be served with healthy dips, like our own coriander and mint chutney or humus.
9} Taste and texture preference: We can take help from this too, it will help the child to try new food easily. If a child likes crunchy foods like apples and pears etc, we can offer him carrots and cucumbers etc. If a child likes soft foods such as banana and mango etc, we can make apples and pears soft by pressure cooking or can add them in his favourite porridge.
10} Rule out food intolerances: Food intolerance can be a reason for picky eating. We have to check the signs of intolerance. A child may experience stomach ache, bloating / gas, nausea etc after eating some specific food items. Dairy and gluten intolerance is also increasing in kids nowadays. Make a diary and note down such instances and take necessary action. Take help from a doctor and nutritionist.
Top Gurgaon schools have cafes that provide nutritious food as a practice. The best schools in Gurgaon go a step further and provide balanced and nutritious food. Children who resist eating healthy food at home tend to do so more easily in a school setting where there is positive peer pressure. Parents should encourage children to eat at a school cafe in case the food is well balanced.
Every parent has to deal with this phase of picky eating. Don’t worry. Be persistent. Don’t lose hope. One day your child will start liking most of the food items and loving some of them too. I am telling this from my experience. Happy feeding!
Disclaimer: The blog author is a Vega parent. Views expressed are personal views of the parent.
For more information on the above subject, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.