Parents and caregivers want what’s best for their children and want them to excel in all areas of their life, one of which is good eating habits. Children often go through phases when it comes to eating and sometimes may refuse to eat the foods that they are being offered or the food that the rest of the family is eating.
Both parents/caregivers as well as children have responsibilities when it comes to feeding. For parents (or caregivers), their responsibility is to firstly decide what food and drinks are served. It is very important to make one family meal with a variety of healthy foods that all members of the family can eat from. It will then be easier for your child to learn to eat these foods also. Another responsibility that parents or caregivers have is to decide when food is served. When there is a routine for eating schedules, it is much more likely that a child will be hungry when they come to the table and will be more open to trying new foods. Lastly, parents and caregivers must also decide where food is served. When you eat together at the table, children are more likely to eat healthier and with less distractions. Now, children also have a responsibility in their eating choices. They need to decide if and how much to eat from the food and drinks that you have served – for healthy children, they are able to determine when they are hungry or full.
9 steps that you can take to improve your picky eaters feeding:
- Eat together as often as possible – this allows you to be a role model to your child and will teach them healthy eating habits as well as better table manners.
- Keep mealtimes pleasant and relaxed – children eat better when the environment is positive.
- Set regular meal and snack times – always offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks at regular times each day. Don’t allow your child to graze all throughout the day as this will decrease their hunger at mealtimes. Remember, children have small stomachs and their appetite can be spoiled by even just a few biscuits or a bit of milk. Be sure however to offer water in between meals and snacks.
- Eat meals at the table and secure your child in a high chair if needed. Avoid any distractions such as the TV, computer or toys at the table. Allow your child to focus only on eating.
- Don’t prepare separate meals for your child. When your child is able to eat solids, serve food that the rest of the family is eating. If you offer only what the child wants to eat, they will never learn to eat a variety of foods or try new foods. Always be sure to offer at least 1 food item that your child will definitely eat, for example: rice, bread, potatoes etc.
- Let your child decide if and how much to eat from the food you serve.
- Avoid pressure, praise, rewards or punishment.
- Always offer a variety of foods at each meals. When offering new foods, always serve with familiar foods. Also try different textures, for example, sweet potato can be mashed, baked, boiled, or crispy.
- Involve your child in food choices. For example, allow them to help with some cooking or shopping for food together, that way they will be more open to trying new foods.
Overall, children can go through phases of being pickier to trying new foods. It is important to note that sometimes it can take up to 20 times of trying the same food for children to start liking it, so don’t give up after 1 or 2 tries. You, as parents/caregivers, are your child’s best role model so be sure to set a good example and eat healthy foods and practice good eating behavior, this way, your child will learn to do the same.
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