Good nutrition is essential to fuel kids as they grow. Starting them off on the right foot food-wise sets the foundation for a healthy lifestyle that will carry into adulthood. Nowadays, toddlers or children usually will only eat what they want and pick out all the vegetables and leave it on the plate. They are considered to some as picky eaters.
So what does “picky” eating means? Picky eating (also known as fussy, faddy or choosy eating) is usually classified as part of a spectrum of feeding difficulties. It is characterized by an unwillingness to eat familiar foods or to try new foods, as well as a strong food preferences.
Picky eating can be a stressful food-related issue for parents to address. It is crucial to strike a balance between encouraging children to listen to their own body cues and explore their preferences, and ensuring that they are being exposed to a variety of foods and set up to have a healthful relationship with food as they get older.
“It’s never too soon to start teaching kids good eating habits, ” says Diana Schnee, a pediatric dietitian. Kids need time and space to practice trying new foods and the goal is to encourage exploration of food without fear.
There are few strategies to make your kids enjoy food.
1. Let them involve in the process
Firstly, make healthy food fun by getting your kids involved in preparing the meals. You may allow them to set the table or tear lettuce up for the salad. Kids love whisking eggs and making their own milk with guidance.
You could even allow them to help plan a fun menu and then encourage them to invite their favourite toys to the table. The goal is to get kids excited about food and interested in exploring it.
2. Discover new food
Secondly, bring them to the supermarket to discover new food. You may ask them to choose a fruit, vegetable or other food that they are interested in. Then once back home, get them to taste and describe it by using sight, touch, smell, taste and sound as this will enhance their interest and curiosity towards food. You may also include the food they choose during meal preparation.
3. Schedule meal time routine
Lastly, sticking to the routine of meal time is crucial to make your kids enjoy the food. Serve the meals and snacks at about the same time daily and offer them some healthy snacks such as fruits or milk during their snack time to avoid them from starving.
If they refuse to eat during the meal time, do not offer any food for them and they have to wait until the next opportunity to eat as children will not become ill or suffer permanently if they refuse a meal or two.
It is not difficult to get your kids to enjoy your food. As you're working with your picky eater, not to worry if your efforts aren't successful at first. Do take one step at one time as it takes patience and persistence teaching your kids to love healthy food.
Look at their intake over the course of the week rather than what they eat on one day or at one meal. But most important is to be a role model to your kids. To foster your child’s healthy relationship with food, be sure you are providing a good example for them to follow. Do remember, parents are the biggest influence on children's eating habits, therefore you need to eat right too!
Prepared by Phoebe Hong,
Final Year Student, 2022
BSc (Hons) Dietetics with Nutrition,
International Medical University (IMU)
Checked by Mohd. Siddeq Azha,
Diet Ideas Sdn. Bhd.