Picky Eater

Let me tell you what happened that triggered me writing this post. I was at a coffee shop and I saw a mother sitting with her 4-5 year old child right beside me. The mother told her daughter not to have the entire ice-cream or she would be obese pretty soon. I don’t know if I was more frustrated or disappointed. However, I decided to leave before giving a comment.

In my practice, over 50% of parents report that their children are picky when it comes to food. Trust me, most of the times I see a trend. Child is a mirror image of a close family member.

Children start listening and learning from parents as young as three years of age. This is the time they start forming a relationship with their body and food. Also, a toddler is a little stubborn creature that tries to prove his/her independence by throwing food and avoid having a food he/she might have loved a second ago. That is why parents need to be positive role models and exhibit will power, patience and consistency. I am telling you now, that your child will try every trick that you can imagine to challenge you. Just hang in there.

What are my top tips to have you started?

Start from yourself:

1. Food as nutrition
Talk about food as a nutrition. Do not count the calories, fat percentage, carbohydrate amount, etc.
2. Learn to communicate
Explain every rule to your child. Tell them they don’t have to eat what they don’t like. Tell them a story about what happens to food when it goes to their mouth, until it comes out.
3. Analyze yourself first
Stop going on the scale every day and do not count calories in front of your kids.
4. Be realistic
Have your child understand that reality is far from those perfectly fit models in television and computer.
5. Don’t be a picky-eater
Children mostly have same food preference as parents. Eat variety of healthy foods yourself. Do not make faces or show disgust when you try a new food.
6. Exercise:
Please stop keeping your child home because it is cold outside and your kid might come down with flu. Encourage physical activity for the sake of being healthy not to control weight. Remember, you have to be active yourself, for your child to believe you.

When it comes down to your toddler:

1. Aim for a balanced week
A toddler's eating habits is exactly like women's mood swings before their monthly cycle. They might love a fruit today and tomorrow hate it. Don't focus on a balanced day when it comes to your child's diet. You need a balanced week to make sure you have achieved your goals.
2. Make it fun
a. Use cookie cutters and make different shape fruits and vegetables and sandwiches.
b. Use the stacking strategy. Get a your child’s favourite food, top it with something he/she doesn’t like until your child is satisfied. Kinda like playing with Lego.
3. Provide Variety
Give your child options and have him/her involved in food preparation process.

Bottom line is:

1. No reward regimen
Do not interfere, reward, give a gift or cheer at the table. Keep calm and let your child feel that the choice is his/hers and eating well is a normal process.
2. Timing is crucial
Give variety of foods at the same time. Have your child pick what is most appealing. However, when eating time is done, pack everything and do not bring them out, until next feeding or snacking time. Presenting food every 2-3 hours to a picky-eater is ideal in my opinion.
3. Hang in there
Your child will challenge you and it will take time to build new habits. Just be patient and I promise that it will work.

I hope this will help you start a new eating routine in your household.
Dr. Z

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.