Wellness Tips

Wellness Wednesday: Tips for Your Fussy Foodie | Lifestyle

Ernest Aquino

Ernest Aquino

It’s not unlikely that your toddler will ask for their favorite food just to refuse to eat it when it’s prepared. Or they may simply refuse to try new foods. While this may be frustrating for you as a parent, this is perfectly normal behavior for your little one.

A 2015 study found that over 20% of parents struggle with picky eaters. Don’t worry, your toddler is not out to get you. A British study found that heredity is to blame for 46% of occurrences of pickiness and 58% of refusals to experience new food.

While toddlers can fall into 2 categories: not willing to try new or unfamiliar foods (neophobic) or unwilling to eat a variety of familiar foods, it is important to think about what they eat over a week rather than in a day or at mealtime.

As long as your child eats foods from the main food groups (fruits and vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy) and not losing weight (as a result of eating behaviors) then you don’t have much to worry about.

The good news is that children’s taste change over time. Gradually introduce other foods and keep going back to the foods your child did not like before. One day they’ll hate something, but a month later they may love it.

Here are some tips to help restore the fun back in mealtime:

Start with savory, not sweet foods. A child’s palate adapts to the first foods offered. Provide a variety of different tastes and textures when introducing solid food.

Keep mealtime positive. Kids can sense anxiety, so try to remain calm and positive when serving meals.

Don’t coerce or force your child into eating. This may make your child tense or upset and fussy traits may be exacerbated.

Be encouraging. Try not to say things like, “you probably won’t like this”. This may set up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Offer one bite of a new food, but don’t force your child to eat the whole plate. A child may refuse a new food due to fear of disliking texture, taste, or smell. Just start with one bite.

Be a role model. Make meals fun with a variety of foods. Smile when you eat different foods and your child’s curiosity may overcome his/her anxiety about possibly disliking the food.

Offer nutrient-dense foods cut into interesting shapes and sizes. Kids may be more likely to try a crinkle carrot or melon ball over traditional shapes of fruits and vegetables.

Give some praise for trying new foods. Kids need positive reinforcement to build confidence in overcoming neophobia.

Don’t reward eating with more eating (i.e. desserts). Kids will see eating foods they dislike as a means to an end when dessert is offered. Offering treats as reinforcement may also influence emotional eating.

Be patient. It can take 10-15 trials of a new food before a child prefers it. Don’t give up!

Patience and persistence are key when dealing with a fussy foodie toddler. Offer variety, avoid pressure, and be a positive role model. They’ll grow to enjoy diverse foods.

Ernest Aquino is an AFPA Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and Personal Trainer, and is TakeCare’s Wellness Team Lead. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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