Finish your milk now! No, you can’t eat the pasta without the broccoli! You want apple again? If this everyday conversation of mine, feels familiar to you, then you’ve got yourself a little picky eater. And even though the constant battle to complete their nutrition might feel lonely, you’re not alone. Almost 20% to 50% of parents across the different countries in the world believe their child is a picky eater.
The Battle Begins
It all began blissfully. My little one would eat all types of foods, as I started weaning her to solids at six months. This lovely state of happy eating lasted till she was about one and a half years old. I tried to introduce her to a variety of foods before one year of age. This exposure to different tastes and textures goes a long way in making the child accept all kinds of foods later. Or so the experts told me.
One day my culinary adventurer was replaced by a food critic. My daughter began rejecting some of the foods I’d put before her. An increasing sense of individuality manifested itself in displays of independence everywhere. She began to assert her choices when it came to clothes, toys and of course even food.
I began to develop a more collaborative approach to mealtimes. I conceded to her demands to eat with her own hands. She enjoyed eating finger foods like slices or cubes of fruits, chapati rolls, cut sandwiches etc. What helped was giving the child the freedom to choose the food and the amount she wanted to eat.
Fixing a time for meal helps to set the rhythm and appetite for your child. If you fix the time and the duration of your child’s meal, the gap allows the child to be hungry enough to savour the meal while building anticipation. Through this structure you are allowing the child to develop an internal clock, discipline as well as control within the structure that you have provided.
Satiety requires mindful eating. For her to truly enjoy food and learn to taste each bite, I ensured that we all sat together to eat. There was no TV in the background to distract the child away from her meal. This encouraged her to learn how different people ate from watching the other members of the family eating.
Without Fear of Favor
Through all our culinary experiments, I never showed anger or tried to bribe her. It is important to not set up food as the site of a struggle. If chapatti was rejected, then we turned to pancake with whole wheat flour. If milk was rejected, then curd or cheese was given. It became a game of textures and tastes rather than a fight.
Whenever you find yourself getting anxious, relax and find a playful way to turn the battle into a game. There are many ways to ensure her nutrition from experimenting with recipes to OTC supplements. Find simple, delicious and happy ways to nourishment. As you embark on a journey of taste together your child will learn to love all the healthy delicious foods that you grew up with and perhaps many you never tasted.