It is no wonder that parents of picky babies and preschoolers find mealtime
rather stressful. A study suggests that 1 out of every 5 children exhibit fussy
or picky eating behaviors. Fussy eating behaviors are common during childhood.
The good news for parents who are worried about their child’s picky eating is that research has repeatedly shown that a major contributing factor is the way parents respond to these behaviors. This article explains some of the causes of fussy eating and how parents can handle kids with fussy eating habits.
Fussy eating or otherwise called choosy, selective, faddy, or picky eating is the eating of an insufficient quantity or assortment of foods through the denial of a sizeable amount of both known and unknown foods. It is similar to food neophobia where a child is afraid of testing unknown or new foods.
picky eating behavior is generally projected to increase during childhood. However, there is no generally accepted definition of fussy eating. One thing we know for sure is that fussy eating usually causes a substantial amount of stress for caregivers or parents and it has a harmful influence on family relationships.
Other definitions of fussy eating include exact mention of restriction of the consumption of vegetables, delivery of foods that are dissimilar from those of the parents/caregivers, strong food preferences, distinct techniques of food preparation, disruption of day-to-day habits that is challenging for the child or parent and eating insufficient amounts of food.
Children can become fussy eaters for different reasons. Some children can develop fussy eating behaviors by modeling the fussy eating habits of their caregivers or parents. Some kids are inherently more aware of texture, smell, and taste than other kids.
Moreover, the appetites of toddlers and preschoolers constantly change with their growth spurt and differences in activities. Even babies have varying appetites. The peak period of a child’s picky eating behavior happens at about 3years and they’ll probably be less picky when they grow older.
Other factors that contribute to these picky eating behaviors include:
According to the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), some fixed indicators for causes of fussy eating, especially for 38 months old were linked with:
The conduciveness of your environment will partly determine how fast your child overcomes his or her fussiness. Here are some tips for handling your fussy baby.
Create a family eating routine to solidify your relationship with your child. Children can copy your eating habit, so encourage family mealtime. Ensure the TV is off and phones are put away during mealtime so family members can interact together.
Try to make everyone eat the same food and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses to eat what you’ve served. Cooking another food may encourage fussy eating behaviors. Likewise, you can set a time limit for meals, and any food left after the set time elapses can be packed away.
If your child doesn’t finish his/her food during this set time pack it away and don’t give the child any food until the next mealtime. Try not to make too much fuss when food is spilled, or drinks are poured on the table. Children enjoy low-stress mealtime.
If your child is the type that gets hyperactive during mealtime and is too distracted to sit down and eat at the family table, try to calm them down before mealtime. You can have quiet times before you eat so they are relaxed. Simply encouraging them to wash their hands or help with setting the table can help them relax.
If your child has refused to eat the food you’ve prepared or served, don’t have a food fight with them. It will only encourage them to make more fuss. Try and ignore it as much as possible. When you give their picky habits too much importance, you’re unknowingly encouraging their behavior.
After giving them breakfast, they may sometimes not want to eat launch. Understand that a child’s appetite is different from that of an adult. Children are too busy having fun and exploring the world that they forget about eating.
Children often want to test the limits of their independence, which they exhibit by refusing to eat certain meals. It’s all part of their emotional, social, and intellectual development. If your child has enough energy to play about, he or she probably has enough food in their system to fuel all that energy. Don’t worry too much about it.
Putting your child under pressure to eat certain meals or even punishing them because they don’t want to eat isn’t the solution. In fact, avoid the temptation to bribe them into eating what they don’t want. this can make them develop a negative attitude towards trying new foods.
We understand that it is your responsibility to provide for your kids, but they can still decide not to eat. Your punishments can make them hate the meal. They may look forward to your ‘prize’, but it won’t stop them from hating the food. The prize can even encourage unhealthy eating habits.
Toddlers are more inclined to eat meals that are eye-catching and creatively arranged. You can cut sandwiches and pancakes into fascinating shapes. Or allow your child to help out with meal preparation. Make the food look colorful and offer finger foods since toddlers enjoy food that involves a dip.
Sometimes, it can be rewarding to support your child’s independence when it comes to meals. The important thing is to offer healthy meals to your children and give them the opportunity to decide how they’ll eat them.
You can allow your child to decide what to eat in as much as it’s something healthy. Just make sure your child isn’t confused about what they are eating. The trick is to present them with options rather than ask them what they want. You can ask “Would you like carrots or watermelons?”
Allow them to help you out when you prepare their meals. Also, let them pick the recipe, fill the sandwich, wash fruits and vegetables, remove foods from the fridge, and pick or plant herbs in the garden.
The important thing is to make them feel like they helped with the meal. This will make them feel proud of the final outcome and they are more likely to eat what they ‘helped’ to cook.