Picky Eating

By Parents&Kids 2019-05-23 16:25:47

Children's preference for choosing and deciphering between food is a necessary stage of their growth. It is completely acceptable to refuse certain foods as your child discovers food that best represents them. The only slight danger is that your child does not refuse to eat a certain food group (e.g. refusing to eat any vegetables or fruits).

Q:How can parents deal with picky-eating children?

Eating or refusing to eat certain food is a common eating behaviour in young children. Parents may be concerned that young children are undernourished due to insufficient nutrition. There are a wide spectrum of reasons why young children do not eat certain foods: Personal food preferences, the number of meals they eat during that day, food taste, cooking style, texture, colour, and even the eating environment. Parents and teachers do not have to overcorrect or force eating when dealing with this.

Q:How can parents help their children to eat more healthy food?

Encourage your child to eat a variety of different foods. Expand on what your child is already eating and encourage them to try more, based on that foundation. You can slowly introduce other food with similar colours, flavour and textures. The most important thing is to make it fun – brightly coloured food looks more appealing! Cut solid food in different shapes which kids can recognize, Involve a sugar free dip/sauce, finger food which they can easily eat by themselves.

Q:How can parents introduce new foods to their children?

Keep offering small portions of food (to avoid overwhelming them) that your child did not like before to increase their exposure and chances of trying out the food.

Giving verbal praise if they try it can also encourage them to try more. The routine and mealtime is very important. Properly schedule your child’s meal throughout the day, and limit unscheduled snacks so that your child will have a bigger appetite during mealtimes.

Engage them in food preparation, letting them feel the fruits and vegetables and learning colours with it, teaching how to stir or count the ingredients if you are concerned about your child's eating behaviour.

Q:What should parents do if these eating problems persist?

If these problems persist and you notice a change in weight then see our nutritionist or pediatrician who can monitor and advise you about the nutrients needed for your child's growth and development.

For parents seeking further advice, we recommend the following tips:

Avoid restricting foods from your child’s diet.

Never say never! Limiting access to certain foods can lead to forbidden-fruit syndrome, making kids crave what’s off-limits even more.

Try not to offer food as a reward.

Offer favourite treats in moderation and alongside other (healthy) favourites. Try not to offer treats to your kids as a reward for good behaviour or for eating other, healthy foods.

Don’t force anything.

Insisting that your child eat a particular food might cause them to resist the food even more. The key is continually and gently encourage your child to give healthy foods a chance.

Serve less than you expect your child will eat.

When faced with overwhelming portions, some kids refuse to eat anything. Try serving small amounts of a variety of healthy foods, and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry.

Try to fit all five food groups in every meal.

Keep a food diary to track whether your child is getting all five food groups at each meal over the course of a week.

Serve the rainbow.

Kids love colourful foods, and a rainbow of foods ensures a wider range of nutrients. Think purple grapes, red apples, orange sweet potatoes and green broccoli. While grocery shopping, make a game of it: Challenge your kids to to choose at least one produce item in every colour.

Expose your child to a new food at least six times.

Research suggests that it can take 6-15 times for a child to develop a taste for a new food.

Drink water instead of sugar-loaded juices.

Kids don’t need all the extra calories in juice. Stick with water, calorie-free sparkling water or naturally-flavoured water with no added sugar.

Dr Tao Rui

Chief of Pediatrics

Dr. Rui is a Pediatrician with over 30 years of experience in China, America, and Singapore. He graduated from Wuhan Medical College and continued his studies at the Pediatric Hospital of Philadelphia and the Singapore Pediatric Hospital.