It’s estimated that between 5 and 25 percent of children are selective eaters. But even more adventurous children often refuse to eat specific foods.
Others gravitate toward a small number of the same foods, reducing the diversity (and therefore overall health) of their diet.
Picky eating is especially common for young children and toddlers, but there are effective ways of enticing your child to eat something they don’t appear to be interested in.
It is possible to provide healthy meals for kids that all will enjoy. Following these steps will help your child open up to new foods and get the nutrition he or she needs.
Developing Good Habits
Children often start to become more picky about their eating habits around their first birthday, as they begin to have more control over their lives.
It’s normal for young children to have unpredictable eating routines. So eating a lot one day and much less the next isn’t necessarily a cause for worry.
What can be more concerning is when a child begins to favor the same few foods or starts refusing others.
Both parents and children have a role to play in promoting healthy eating habits, so it’s important to monitor your child’s eating in order to learn of any unhealthy habits they’re developing.
Setting an Example
Like in all areas of their development, children are heavily influenced by their parents’ examples when it comes to food.
The first step to avoiding picky eating and other undesirable patterns is reinforcing healthier decisions through your own example and through the foods you provide.
One easy way to do this is by eating healthy food in front of your child and encouraging them to do the same.
It often takes a child several introductions to a new food before they become interested in trying it, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t want something at first.
Fixing Picky Habits
If you notice that your child is beginning to favor certain foods or lose interest in others, there are some simple ways to help them create a more balanced diet.
First, you can give them a range of healthy options at each meal, rather than forcing them to eat a single item they may not be interested in.
One common mistake to avoid is falling into the trap of cooking your child whatever they want. While they may not enjoy every component of a meal, they should generally be expected to eat along with the rest of the family.
Don’t try to make them eat specific foods or try everything at the table, as they should feel in control of their eating.
It can be difficult to help a picky child embrace a healthier and more well-rounded diet, but fixing bad habits doesn’t have to be combative or immediate.
Keeping these ideas in mind will help you slowly introduce your child to a wider range of foods and make them more comfortable with trying new things.
Who knows, your child may discover they love the one thing they swore they would never eat!