Do you have a picky eater at home?
Does your child feel reluctant to try new foods?
Is your child super picky about the smell and texture of food? The overwhelming addition of various ingredients gets in the way of your child’s eating habits.
In most cases, you may notice that picky eating comes from the parent(s), or sometimes your child develops sensitivity to food over time. You cannot blame your child for being a picky eater, rather you should be looking at the solution on how you can have your child try new foods or enjoy a proper meal.
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Why does your child become a picky eater?
My son is extremely picky about food and scared of trying new foods (and that comes from his dad). I made the mistake of not having him try new foods as I was being over-protective. Had I tried baby-led weaning for him, things would have been less challenging. Now after years of struggling with food, surprisingly, he has started taking interest in food – I would say, to some extent.
Not to mention, your picky eater would eventually fall for traditional foods and family preferences, regardless of how versatile cuisines you serve on your dining table.
Having a strong sense of smell makes your child eat or leave
Having a strong sense of smell is one of the reasons your child refuses to eat. Well, having a sharp sense of smell is inherent or it develops with time.
If your picky eater likes Pizza, chances are, he likes the aroma of Oregano. How about cooking pasta or Mac and cheese with a dash of oregano?
Adding Too many textures in one meal
For some kids or adults, an overwhelming plate is a big turn-off. When you have a picky eater, start with a simple menu, with the simplest ingredients so they can enjoy food and its flavor.
Your child is Hesitant to try a new type of food
No matter how tempting the food may appear, picky eater would feel reluctant to try new food. The good news is, this may get better with time.
Whether it is a refusal to eat or being selective about their food, all children go through these phases and that’s completely normal. There is a possibility that sometimes your child will eat anything, and some days they eat nothing; this is normal, but at the same time, quite frustrating and worrisome for parents.
Understanding your child’s preference is key to healthy eating. This does not mean that you should only get your picky eater to eat, what he likes. Instead, try making new recipes with the favorite ingredients of your picky eater.
Simple Hacks to get your picky eater to eat a fulfilling meal
Picky eating starts around the age of one when your child starts to self-feed. He would choose what to eat and how much. Baby-led weaning is an incredible approach to have your child learn self-feeding and also, it will reduce the chances of becoming picky when it comes to food. This process will help you funnel down to your child’s most favorites and fewer favorites.
Most importantly, you need to have your picky eater get hungry before you serve the food. When you are hungry, it is very likely that your child would eat anything (or at least some of it) that you have to offer.
1. Limit sugar intake
Avoid offering candies, juice, sugar, or any junk in between meal times. Eating too many candies suppress hunger, and your child is getting energy in the form of sugary drinks and candies.
2. Increase appetite
You can expect your toddler around the age of 2 to 3 to not sit and eat properly. Generally, toddlers are too busy playing, running, and exploring new things all the time; they would hardly want to sit and eat. However, as your child grows out of the age of 3 to 4, the growth spurts kick in, and now it’s time to start trying new foods.
Related: 18 Parenting Hacks for toddlers
3. Try new foods in front of them
Children at the age of 4-7 watch their parents, siblings, friends, and teachers eating and trying new foods. So, try to lead by example. Try new foods yourself and don’t force-feed or pressure them to eat new foods.
Try to include a pleasant smell that is not too overwhelming if your child has a fairly strong sense of smell.
4. Never force your child to eat
Many parents try to force, coax, argue or bribe their children to eat food. They may also start preparing something else or try to punish, threaten, or become angry or frustrated. This makes children more stressed and worried and they may end up eating less food.
5. Schedule proper meal times and snack times
Try to have regular mealtimes so that your child starts feeling hungry at the usual meal and snack times. If your child refuses to eat, don’t offer him food until the next scheduled meal or snack time.
6. Limit mealtime
Children usually eat most of their food within 30 minutes; so, try to limit mealtime to 30 minutes. This will also give time for your child to become hungry before the next mealtime arrives.
7. Keep distractions away while eating
Keep away all the distractions by switching off the tv, mobile, and tablets so that your child can focus on their meals.
Try these cute educational placemats to keep your child engaged and entertained while eating.
Or download these pretty alphabets printable for free, both uppercase and lowercase, that you can insert into a sheet protector.
8. Start with smaller portions of food
Try to give small portions of food that your child may eat. Big portions are always overwhelming for children. Please do not force them to clear their plate, in fact, you should keep reminding them about not being wasteful in any way.
9. Try to add things to mealtime that may interest your child
Try to bring something new related to food during mealtimes. Toddlers enjoy exploring a fork and spoon, so having some fancy kids-friendly cutlery helps develop their mealtime interest.
10. Try reward system
Reward or praise your children if they have eaten more food and cleared their plate. Be this a candy or a sticker depending on your child.
11. Appreciation goes a long way
Make the praising process enthusiastic by having an eye to eye contact, a warm smile, or by giving them a hug or high five.
12. Avoid using discouraging words
Don’t use negative words or avoid bringing up past events. Encourage every time by saying as you did better today.
13. Do not make your child’s picky eating an issue in front of anyone
Don’t discuss your child’s eating problems in front of them; this may imply that they can overpower you. Remember, you are the parents, and they are just kids.
14. Consider your child’s likes and dislikes
The likes and dislikes of children can be evolved over time. So, make sure you keep offering your child foods that he disliked previously.
15. Try to make mealtime a healthy experience for everyone at the table
Keep mealtimes a happy and relaxing experience. Try not to add conflict with the child or other family members during mealtime that may trigger anxiety in kids or deter them to eat properly.
16. Engage your child while cooking meals
You may also engage children (6-10) to help in cooking. Children are more likely to eat food which they take part in preparing.
How can you make your picky eater (child) get hungry?
Before you start reading about the food you want to try with your picky eater, try this amazing hack to get your child to sit and eat properly.
First, let them get hungry. Get them to do lots of physical activity, like running, dancing, playing and moving, etc.
Practically and medically, your child will eat when he gets hungry. Every child has different eating habits; some are good eaters and some are frequent eaters. As your child grows up, have him decide when and how he wants to eat.
Remember: NEVER force food. I know, I know. It’s hard. I have given this advice to moms many times, but a mom’s heart never pays attention to this one. Kids don’t starve themselves unless there is a medical reason for it.
Adding multivitamins to your kids’ diet increases appetite and significantly helps with eating habits.
In my opinion, the best way to get your child hungry is by including multivitamins in his diet. Have your child eat his favorite gummy vitamins, any specific time of the day because multivitamins tend to increase hunger in kids and adults both.
I personally love Zarbees multivitamins for my kids as I prefer no gelatin.
The above-mentioned suggestions and quick picky eater recipes will help you and your child get into a good routine with food and meals and avoid long-term battles at mealtimes. Try to be consistent with these strategies but do remember that things will take time to develop or change.