Getting children to eat healthy can be quite difficult. “Mealtime battles” happen all too often, and kids eventually become labeled as “picky.”
Trying to feed a picky eater is indeed challenging — and stressful, too, for both the parent and the child. Parents worry that their kids aren’t getting the nourishment they need, and the children feel their parents’ frustration.
Why some children are picky with food Ruby Frane, RND, a clinical nutritionist and section manager of the Clinical Nutrition section at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City, says the “feeding style” of parents may have something to do with children being picky eaters.
“Sometimes, parents may be over-controlling,” she explains. “For example, they may restrict food from the child, pressure him to eat, or even bribe him with rewards.”
In other cases, parents might also become “neglectful” and relinquish the responsibility of feeding their children to the yaya or nanny.
Feeding problems may arise, too, when parents don’t set any limits. “They feed the child whenever he wants, or prepare special food for him,” Frane elaborates. The solution? Here are 6 tips:
1. Start early
Lalaine Naluz, who owns a tutorial center, says her two-year-old son Henderson actually likes vegetables more than meat. “He eats ampalaya, sayote, squash, upo, labanos, tomatoes and others,” she shares.
Lalaine says this is most probably because she has been giving her son mashed vegetables almost every day, so he has gotten used to eating them.
Meanwhile, freelancer Faith Fajardo shares how baby-led weaning or BLW has helped her son become a non-picky eater. “We started with avocado, banana, mango, then rice with broth and vegetables,” she shares. “He's now 2 and we feed him what we eat.”
Faith says that she focuses on building a “positive food environment” instead of forcing her son to eat. “I just make sure that he gets his fiber and veggies every day,” she adds.
2. Practice responsive feeding
Frane recommends that parents adopt the “responsive feeding style,” where they guide the child’s eating.
“They’re the ones who set the limits on where, what and when to eat,” she expounds. “They should also model eating and talk about food in a positive way.”
Frane also says that parents should respond to their children’s hunger instead of force feeding them, because doing the latter will result in the child having a negative association with food.
3. Try and try again
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If you’re introducing a new food to your child, Frane recommends you keep trying even if your child rejects it the first time.
“Rejecting new foods is normal,” she explains. Children are more likely to accept new foods when they are given repeated opportunities to taste them.
Frane adds, “Repeated opportunities mean the child is exposed to a particular food at least 10 times before he or she may establish his liking for that food.”
Pauline Espulgar, a freelance writer/voice professional, and mom to Beatrix Miranda, 6, agrees with Frane. “Persistence is key. Bea is a picky eater but persistence works for her,” she shares.
“We also do not prepare food just for her. Whatever we eat, she has to eat also (unless its spicy). It's still an uphill battle, but we manage somehow.”