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This Mom Has A Different Way Of Dealing With Picky Eaters
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  • As an author of the first Filipino baby food cookbook Whole +Natural: Baby Food, you would think dealing with a picky eater would be the last of Namee J. Sunico’s challenges at home. As it turns out, the struggle is real even for this mom of two who uses her profession and creativity in feeding her kids Sebi and Juliana as shown in her IG @girlcook.

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    Apart from the whole art of it, she also subscribes to teaching her children the “why’s” of the importance of eating the right food. You must be thinking: aren’t toddlers too young to understand the ‘why’s’? Well, not really if you approach it as creatively as you do their meals. This is what Sunico shared with parents in Smart Parenting’s latest series of Masterclass Toddler Expertips titled, “EAT: Make Your Child’s Nutrition A Priority.”

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    What is a picky eater?

    She begins her talk by answering this question pointing out that the usual definition would be that picky eaters only eat what they want and not what is served. “To me, a picky eater is one who really just chooses food that compromises his health, development, and weight,” she stresses. “The food they eat has a great impact on how they are growing. It affects their motor skills, size, and overall development.”

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    Why do we eat?

    She follows her first question with another one and gives this answer: “We need food to nourish ourselves, for growth and development, in order to create energy. Sometimes we forget that’s the goal of eating. When we know why we eat we become more mindful of the choices we give our kids,” she elaborates.

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    Easy to explain to adults but not for kids, right? So Sunico deals with her picky eaters through action and these tips so far have worked for her:

    1. Spend at least a meal with them.

    “More than feeding them, it is also important to eat with them because part of it is to model what we want them to eat,” she advises. What you eat is what they will want to eat and if parents model healthy eating, the rest will follow, she says.

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    2. Respect your toddlers.

    Take a cue from them, points out Sunico. “Sometimes, if they don’t want to eat something maybe they are also feeling something. They might be sick or maybe they just ate. They are not able to communicate everything yet. At home, if they don’t want to eat yet, they don’t have to because I know when they get hungry they go back,” she says.

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    3. Close the kitchen.

    Closing the kitchen is something Sunico has learned as a chef and it’s something she has applied in her home to teach her children to eat on time. “When the kitchen is closed you cannot eat so the next time you can eat is the next meal. In a way, [toddlers] self-regulate and no matter how little they are or even if they are not yet talking, they are able to understand what you are saying and can adapt to it.”

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    4. Keep offering healthy foods.

    “I would give my son green peas. He kept playing with it because he doesn’t know what it is. Makalat but the pagod is worth it,” she muses. She says, that if you keep offering healthy foods repeatedly, they will eat them eventually. She also adds that parents should keep food interesting for toddlers by challenging their five senses. “Give them purees or oranges na may balat.” This way, she says, they will learn how to eat because, after all, it is a life skill.

    5. Make eating a learning experience.

    “Sometimes I find myself telling my kids ‘stop playing with your food’ but you should allow them,” says Sunico. Big words such as beta carotene, minerals, vitamin are things they can memorize, she expounds. The simple gesture of placing carrots on the plate becomes a learning experience by pointing out that it is good for the eyes.

    If you start them with the big WHY, they will remember why, points out Sunico. “My daughter used to tell me, ‘I need to drink milk because I want to be a ballerina.’ Three years down she is now taking up ballet.”

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    If your child is a picky eater there’s no need to force him to eat and tell him ‘one last bite, Sunico says. “If we don’t force them to eat they will have a good relationship with food. What’s healthier than broccoli and all the veggies we’re trying to feed them is their personal relationship with food,” she concludes.

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