So you have a picky eater, but do you know what kind of picky eater your child is? That's right, there are more than one type of picky eater out there, in fact there are four types, as if our job as parent s wasn't heard enough, now we have to figure out what type of picky eater we have? Don't worry, we will break it down for you and help you out!
We reviewed an article written for parents about picky eaters and child behavior written by a team from one of the largest therapy platforms in the world called "BetterHelp" This platform provides the help people need to approach their mental health in different ways and tackle daily challenges such as parenting all done by licenced professionals from the comfort of your own home. So lets break it down and get to the meat and potatoes of it all (figuratively speaking) and help you try to figure out where your child is on the picky-eater spectrum and how best to help them and support their growth in over coming or adjusting their picky-eating habits!
The four types of picky-eaters there are can include the following,
Sensory dependant eaters; if it smells or looks weird to them or if it has a texture they're not used to they won't eat it.
Preferential eaters; these eaters won't try anything new or anything that is mixed together
General perfectionists; these are the eaters that don't like their food touching
Behavioral responders; just as it sounds they will exhibit behavioral responses such as throwing a fit, crying or gagging just by looking at the food or they wont come to the dinner table.
Additionally, children with sensory issues or disorders such as ADHD might also be picky-eaters.
It can be difficult for any parent who is not a picky eater, to have one on their hands but here are some tips that can help you and your child navigate through this process as it is very common in toddlers.
Tip #1 - Make Eating Fun!
Use colorful plates, bowls or cutlery and make the food colorful as well! We love to use different cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the foods to make the dish more appealing and fun to eat. We also like to play games at the dinner table, such as eye-spy. This engages the child, and is also a redirection.
Tip #2 - Offering New Choices
It is important as parents to offer new food choices as our children grow and to keep that consistency so that each meal becomes more well rounded as they grow.
IF your child says they don't like something, you can try to keep reintroducing that food in different ways. Our son used to dislike green beans and carrots and now he eats them by the hand full! We would cook and puree them into soups and sauces. Adding a little cinnamon to the cooked carrots and a drop of honey he would gobble it up! Children's palates change over time so the reintroduction is important because what they might not like today they may love next week.
"An option/ Choice phrase “What would you prefer?”
Because your child’s own motivation is so powerful when it comes to them engaging with new food, asking for your child’s input can be a good idea. Kids often feel better about food decisions they make than they do about the ones that we make for them.
Have you asked your child what food they might like to try? Or what would they like to see on the dinner menu this week? Or even if they’d rather the cheese shredded or cut.
I challenge you to see how you can spark your child’s natural curiosity and interest about new foods by asking for their opinion." – Jenny Friedman, Registered dietitian, picky eating expert, author and mom
Tip #3 - Patience
Your child is learning about eating and food. Try to have patience with them as they grow. Take the process for what it is and at your child's pace without letting them control the entire culinary experience.
Tip #4 - Let Them Feed Themselves
Children love to control the narrative, it may seem like they are being picky but really they just want to make their own choices. If your toddler is trying to feed themselves, let them! It may be all over their face and the floor but its that control and sense of independence that they want and... they are eating in the process, versus having a melt down and refusing to eat!
Tip #5 - Practice What You Preach
You cannot tell your child to eat peas if you can't show them that you can eat them too. Try the foods with them and use words like, "yummy" to show them the positive side to it all. New food can be exciting and fun.
Watch how you say things to your child and not to focus on the things they don't like, as it will only encourage the thought for them, and they may never wan to try it again. Try saying things like, "you're just not used to it yet."
The Nutrition Of It All
Incorporate their favorite foods with the new foods especially the healthier choices. Our son loves pasta so our sauces became more complex as he got older incorporating more vegetables and pureeing them together...he never knew he loves spinach and carrots so much!
Stick to a routine when it comes to your child's meal times and snack times. Consistency is key for children.
We found that limiting the snacking meant he was ready and hungry for Lunch or Dinner and the likelihood of him eating everything or trying something new, was more probable.
Finally, setting healthy examples and preparing well rounded meals is very important. Not only for their health, development and growth, but they are more likely to mimic those traits themselves when choosing foods for themselves down the line. I am very happy when I see our child go for apple slices or a yogurt instead of crackers, cookies or chips.
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