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How to Cope with Picky Eaters

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Parenting

Are you tired of battling with your child to eat his food? Does it irritate you that he constantly picks things out of his plate like they were the most disgusting things he had ever seen on earth? Vegetables are usually the unfortunate targets. However, picky eaters may refuse to eat all kinds or only certain kinds of food.

What could be some reasons behind such fussiness?

1. It is normal for young children to be wary of unfamiliar foods. Many adults are the same way. Your child may not be the adventurous kind when it comes to tasting new foods. But that doesn't mean you should stop offering that food. It may take several attempts, even 10-15 tries before he agrees to give it a chance.

2. Consider your own eating preferences or that of your spouse. Children are quick to observe what their parents eat or don't eat. Be careful about making disparaging comments or negative facial expressions when food that you dislike is served.

3. Is your child too full from snacking in between meals? A full stomach will undoubtedly reduce their desire to eat during meal times.

As we consider some solutions on how to cope with picky eaters, let us also mention the reasons why their fussy habit bothers you so much.

1. Are you concerned that your child is losing out on proper nutrition?

Some parents have found a way to substitute and sneak in foods into their children's diet. For example, to counter a child who dislikes vegetables, chop the vegetables into tiny pieces and mix them with fried rice. How about serving milk shakes or milk jelly to a child that dislikes drinking milk?

Do not be overly concerned about your child eating unbalanced meals if he is growing at a reasonable pace. You can monitor your child's growth by plotting his weight and height on a growth chart. Seek medical and nutritional attention if you notice your child's growth rate is not as it should be.

2. Are you frustrated that your child rejects the meal that you have so carefully prepared? Do you feel your efforts are unappreciated and take the rejection personally?

Heed this advice given by Dr. Poh from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at University Kebangsaan Malaysia. She says, "Parents should try to wean themselves off the notion that they are responsible for how much or whether their children eat a particular type of food." Give your child the opportunity to make that decision himself.

Your responsibility as a parent is to make sure your child is given age appropriate food, meal and snack times are set, table manners are observed and mealtimes are relaxed and pleasant. Do not force or bribe your child to eat food he doesn't want. Not only does that tactic not help but it may also make matters worse. Your child will end up more stubborn, unwilling to try new foods and still have an undying hatred towards that particular food. It is also wise for parents to hold their sharp tongues and not make a big fuss over their child's picky habit.

Another trick is to have your child help in preparing the food. They are more likely to consume foods they help prepare, even if it's food they don't like.

Picky eaters can really stress you out. To reduce this stress, accept that there is a reason for your child's fussiness. Also, put the decision of how much or whether to eat a particular food in their hands. Do what you can to provide proper nutrition without being overbearing. If you really think it is hurting their growth, seek medical and nutritional attention.