Some kids and even adults are picky eaters. They have lots of things they don’t like to eat. That’s fair. But is there anything we can do to keep this from happening or at least minimize? Yes! Believe it or not kids instinctively know what their bodies need to eat and how much they need to eat. The following are some guidelines to give them their best chance. Will it work? It will definitely help!
Parent job: What and When Child job: Whether and How much
What does that mean?
Caregivers need to offer healthy, balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals. This usually means 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day with nothing in between. It is important to offer food at consistent times with the food available for a maximum of 30” for meals and 15” for snacks. This will allow kids to know they can expect to be offered food and do not need to ask, but also they will not have an indefinite amount of time to graze. The kids then can build up an appetite and make them much more likely to eat try new foods and make better choices.
Toddlers and children choose what they wish to eat from the options provided. They choose how much to eat and whether to eat at all. Yes, it is possible; they will sometimes not eat anything at all. That is ok.
Avoid offering different options even if the child clearly doesn’t like what has been given. You will have a chance to offer something else in a few short hours. If the food options are something that you might otherwise expect the child to eat, it can be saved and offered again. Do not hesitate to continue to offer foods the child may not otherwise have liked in the past. Familiarity will breed success for most.
If a child (or adult for that matter) is not hungry, they will opt for the things they like best and will not be apt to try something new and thus, less likely to make healthy choices. As you can see, if food is refused and we offer something tastier, it is easy to get into a pattern of refusing to eat and hold out for something “better”.
There are exceptions to every rule of course, but for most, your child will be a much healthier and braver eater! Please talk with your child’s clinician if you have concerns that this may not be right for your child.
Finally, model your own health eating habits so they can learn from those they trust most. Good luck!
Want to learn more: Check out books by Ellyn Satter. You can find them on Amazon or at your local library.