I was fortunate to grow up a “good” eater. I remember only disliking a few foods, specifically, I remember choking down liver. My mom still swears to this day that she didn’t serve us liver. Yes, that is because she called it london broil and I grew up thinking I didn’t like london broil. On the other hand, my middle sister ate nothing! She doused everything she ate with ketchup because she couldn’t stand the tastes or textures. Two kids, same parents, same feeding techniques yet one ate most things and the other hated everything! Even though my sister was a picky eater we were both treated equally, supported in our eating, and most importantly served 1 meal. Fast forward 30 years later and my sister now eats most things (well except seafood and fish) and has even dabbled in her own company “Carrie’s Kinda Famous Food,” but this didn’t happen overnight…honestly it wasn’t until her early 20’s that she really started trying new foods. I mean to this day her food still can’t touch each other…LoL!
If you are dealing with a picky eater it’s important for you to know that you are not alone! Over the past 10 years, I have been working with parents feeding their children, I would say at least 50% of the parents report their children are picky.
It’s important to identify when you should be concerned!
- A child who eats a food one day and refuses it the next or tells you they do not like a food, but you catch them eating it at school is NORMAL! This child is showing their independence and their desire to control their eating.
- A child who only eats from a small list of foods or gets upset in the presence of new food has more room for concern and can be described as a finicky eater.
The picky eater will do just fine when their feeding environment is supported with the division of responsibility in place. However, the finicky eater may need more help and it will likely take consistency and will power. I’m talking about will power for the parent as the child will challenge you in everyway!
I‘ve compiled my 6 Tips that will Get Your Started:
1. Communicate with your child. Children need to be kept in the loop and understand what is going on. Start by explaining how things will be changing with eating. Explain from now on only one meal will be served, a variety will be served, and they will not have to eat anything they do not want.
2. Serve all food on the table. In order for child to do well nutritionally they need to see everything that is served. Allow them to pick and choose from what is on the table. Typically children 2 years old or older should serve their own plate!
3. Serve like foods with unlike foods. Set your child up for success. Choose to add two things to the table that you know they can eat, but are not “special” foods. The staples I usually recommend for ease are bread/butter and milk. It will make you feel better as a parent if you know they were able to fill up on something.
4. No interfering, coxing, rewarding, cheering or reprimanding at the table. By doing any of these things it won’t help and I can promise you it won’t get better!! As I like to say, “Mind you own P’s and Q’s.” This is the hardest one for parents…sit on your hands, position yourself so you can not interfere or even video tape yourself. You may not even realize you are doing it.
5. Do it again every 2-3 hours. Serve 3 meals and 3 snacks, yes, that means a snack before bed. This will allow the child the most success. If they didn’t eat well for the one meal they will be eating again in a few hours!
5. Stick with it. The longer this has been going on the harder it is to fix. Don’t give up and if you want to give up ask for help!
There is hope, I testify to you that IT DOES WORK! It will take time, 1 week, 3 weeks, or 3 years, but you should see improvements along the way.
What is your experience with your picky or finicky eater? I’ve love to hear, please comment below!
Dana Snook, RDN, CDE, CIC