Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
21 Sep 2021
Are mealtimes a battle between you and your picky eater? It doesn’t have to be that way! In this blog I talk about the Use of Division of Responsibility to make mealtimes more peaceful. Not sure what that means, keep reading to learn more and hear tips for parents of picky eaters!
Both you and your child have a role to play during meal time. If you can stick to these roles, I can bet things will get a little easier for you. So first thin is first, what is your role as the parent/caregiver?
The Parent/Caregiver Decides:
What foods and drinks are served
● You have the authority to decide what to offer your children at meal and snack times
● Make only one meal for the whole family. This is strongly recommended in order to work on those stubborn eating habits. If you make a separate meal for your picky eater, there’s no incentive for them to try different foods. Your child will be more willing to eat what the rest of the family is eating if they know their favourite foods won’t be there as a back-up option.
When food is served
● Try to serve meals and snacks at the same time every day. This will teach your child when to expect food to be served. Eating at regular times will help your child’s appetite to correspond to the times food will be offered. That way, your child will come to the table hungry . And a hungry child is more likely to try new foods!
● To meet your child’s daily nutrition needs, offer 3 meals and up to 3 snacks (ie: morning, afternoon, and/or evening)
● Limit mealtimes to 30 minutes: even if your child hasn’t finished their food in this time frame. It’s beneficial to put the food away and serve food again at the next meal or snack time. Drawing out meal times until plates are clear can lead to excessive conflict and an unhappy eating environment. This can result in mealtimes becoming a daily battle and your child might make negative associations with certain foods.
Where food is served
● Research shows that children eat more, healthier foods when families eat at the dinner table together
● It’s important that children not be distracted by the TV, computer, toys, etc. This helps to teach and reinforce the concept that mealtime is for eating and family time.
● Eating together also presents an excellent opportunity to be a good role model. You are able to show your children that you eat the food you want them to eat – especially fruits and vegetables!
Your Child Decides:
If they’re going to eat & how much they’re going to eat:
● Trust that your child knows when they’re hungry or full. They might eat more at some meals or snacks and less at others.
● Pressuring your child to eat by offering rewards or threatening punishments can end up perpetuating their picky eating. The goal is to get your child to eat well, independent from parental pressure.
● If your child doesn’t eat much at one meal, don’t worry. You’ll be offering food at the next meal or snack time. Ultimately, your child will eat if they’re hungry – they won’t starve themselves!
● Picky eating is sometimes the result of a child trying to gain control of an aspect of their life. Letting your child choose if and how much to eat gives them a taste of independence. This gives them an opportunity to practice decision-making and learn about consequences.
When it comes to working with a picky eater, the name of the game is patience. Be consistent with your routine and the rules you set with your child. If you are looking for additional support for you and your family around eating habits and meals, book a free 30 minute consultation with Karissa Giraldi, Registered Dietitian at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph to learn more about how she can help!
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