We’ve all been there. Waiting an hour for your child to eat three bites. Listening to the never-ending, “I don’t want that, I want chicken fingers.” Hearing, “I’m full” after a few bites of food. Welcome to life with a picky eater!
All of the above are forms of picky eaters. And we’ve all been there. For some children, it’s experimental and truly a “phase.” For others, it may be cause for concern.
Let’s review some of these picky eater habits and how to break the habits.
The S-l-o-w Eater: This is the child who takes more than 30 minutes to eat a meal and hardly eats any of the food. They may also hold food in their mouth often and need reminding to chew or swallow.
For many children, they are easily distracted, causing them to take their time. New foods may also contribute to slow eaters.
Break the habit: Keep snacks to a minimum in between meals so they are hungry during mealtime. Consider a timer for dinner. Set it to 30 minutes and tell them you’ll take away their plate at that time, regardless of how much they have eaten. Keep distractions to a minimum (no electronics or TV and keep conversations short).
The Selective Eater: This is the child who may only like specific textures, specific foods or be opposed to food of certain smells, looks and flavor.
This could be caused by delayed introduction of solid foods during infant development (around 6-10 months) or could be caused from a diet that lacks variety, making new foods difficult for children to accept.
Break the habit: Eat the same food and share to add variety. Make sure they are hungry at mealtime. Limit liquids throughout the day, especially milk, which can be filling.
The “I’m Full” Eater: This is the child who claims they are full after a few bites. They aren’t picky about the food, but never eat much. They usually need reminders to take another bite.
For many of these picky eaters, they are just distracted and want to go play or go back to what they were doing.
Break the habit: Setting timers can be helpful for this bunch, as well as involving them in meal prep and letting them select meals they like. Avoid distractions like electronics and the television.
Most of these picky eater’s are going through phases and can be helped with some additional parental support. The most important thing to keep track of is their nutrient intake and ensuring they are getting the nutrients they need throughout the day. Healthy eating and exercise are essential to all growing bodies.
TKD Tip: When introducing new foods to your children, do it slowly. One new food every week or two and reintroduce it a few months later if they didn’t like it. Take them to the grocery store with you and have them pick out (with your help) one new food to try. Make it for a snack or meal and if they like it, start incorporating into more meals.
Parent/Child Activity: Have your child(ren) help meal plan and select one meal a week they want to have. Make sure to include them in the grocery shopping (if you can) and the preparation of the meal. They will feel proud of what they accomplished and most likely will want to eat it all!