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What do I do if my child is a picky eater?

little boy refusing to eat his food

Key points:
1. Picky eating is common in children, especially as they grow and become more interested in play and exploration. As long as they are developing well and happy, it’s not a major concern.
2. Children may refuse certain foods to assert independence. Respect their choices while offering healthy options and introducing new foods gradually.
3. Different profiles of picky eaters include those sensitive to taste, texture, strong-willed eaters, active ones, and those who snack between meals. Tailor your approach to suit their preferences and encourage healthy eating habits.
4. Offer a variety of healthy choices at mealtimes, involve children in cooking, and avoid using dessert as a reward or punishment. Stay patient, positive, and consistent while providing a calm mealtime environment.

A lot of children are picky eaters at some point. If you are going through this, we have good news —it is normal! As long as your baby continues to develop at a healthy rate and is happy, there is not much to worry about.

After the first year growth slows and children don’t require as much food. Furthermore, the cognitive and physical development children experience makes them more interested in playing and exploring, and less interested in sitting down and eating.

Why does pickiness arise? 

One of the reasons why children get fussy and don’t want to eat something is because they seek independence, and refusing food gives them a sense of control. Children want to choose what and how much they eat, and they don’t always have an appetite, so sometimes they eat very well and other days they seem to eat nothing. We must respect their choice to eat or not, but remember that only you have control over what food you offer and at what time.

It is important to offer healthy choices at mealtime and keep presenting new options often because it can take from 10 to 15 exposures to the same food to get a child to like it or even try it. Moreover, when it comes to offering new options remember to present them in small quantities along with familiar food that you know your little one likes.

Types of picky eaters

Now, not all children are the same. There may be different reasons why they don’t want to eat or try new foods. With this in mind, we will present different profiles of children who refuse to eat and tips on how to feed them.

If your child is sensitive to taste, smell, or texture:

  • Present healthy food choices together with food that you already know they like.
  • Gradually offer your baby new food, keeping in mind that it can take several exposures before they accept the food.
  • Pay attention to the food and textures that bother your little one and try to serve the same food but with different preparation next time.

If they have a strong temperament and don’t want to try or eat certain food:

  • Serve new food along with the food that your child already likes. Encourage them to touch, smell, or try new foods.
  • Resist the urge to prepare special food for your little one, but make sure that in every meal there is something that they like. Always try to give them what the rest of the family is eating but in small portions.
  • Offer them healthy dips like natural yogurt, hummus, ketchup, peanut butter, or dressing to motivate your child to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Get your child involved in the simple aspects of cooking so that food interests them and gets their attention.
  • Remember to gradually expose them to new food and stay calm if your little one doesn’t want to taste it.

Children may appear to be picky eaters, but what they want is to self-feed. In this case, you can:

  • Offer finger foods during mealtimes.
  • Let your little one handle the cutlery even if they don’t have good hand-eye coordination yet.
  • Ask your child how they want the food to be served on their plate.

They are very active and don’t like to stop playing to sit and eat:

  • Don’t sit your little one down until the meal is ready and their plate is set.
  • Try to make each meal brief.
  • During snack times, give them healthy and easy-to-eat options while they play.

Your little one eats between meals. This means that they eat little snacks without any fixed schedule, so they usually aren’t hungry during meal times: 

  • Remember that snack portions must be small. For example, proteins have to be the size of your kid’s palm, and any other foods can be sized by one or two spoonfuls.

Take into account these profiles and try different techniques to make sure your child is getting all the nutrients they need. Also, it is very important to remain calm in any situation and don’t force your little one to eat or use dessert as a prize or punishment. You control what they eat and when.

Remember that many kids go through this! This stage is a result of many factors such as a decrease in children’s growth, temperament, food presentation, and even genetics. As long as your child is growing appropriately and your pediatrician verifies they are healthy, try to keep a meal schedule that they like and don’t show them any frustration. Let them see you eat and show a positive attitude towards food. 

Bon appétit!

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for this, we are going through one of those phases where my LO is not keen on trying anything new. This article is helpful with the suggestion of mixing something familiar with something new.

  2. This is very helpful article. Now I get to try some different way to introduce food to my little one. Thank heaps!

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