Dieticians understand that many parents face an uphill battle when it comes to feeding their picky eaters. The good news is there are solutions and strategies that can help parents make mealtime more enjoyable. Unfortunately, some parents of picky eaters make too many mistakes that can actually worsen the situation.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not setting bad eating habits early on. Parents should establish expectations for balanced meals, no unprompted snacking and a willingness to try new things from the start. Failing to do so can lead to their children narrowing their food selection as they become older, leading to greater distress at the table. Parents should remember that the vast majority of behaviors toddlers exhibit during mealtimes are learned.
Another common mistake parents of picky eaters make is allowing their child to control the mealtime. As tempting as it may be to cave in to a child's demands, this creates an environment conducive to more picky eating habits. Parents must remind themselves that it's their job to teach their child to enjoy all kinds of foods. Yielding to an avoidant eater’s will not only set them up for negative eating habits in the future, but also deprive them of necessary nutrients.
Parents of picky eaters should also avoid turn mealtime into a power struggle. It’s easy to get into a shouting match with a rambunctious eater, however, it’s not a productive way to get any results. This can create an emotional back and forth as a child’s refusal to eat will trigger parents to respond in kind. Step outside of the power struggle and use positive encouragement instead.
Lastly, it's important that parents stay patient with picky eaters. The temptation to give up in frustration is always around the corner, however, parents must never let it win. Dieticians understand that some kids need more time than others to try a particular food. With enough patience and persistence in providing healthy options, at least one meal a day should include nutrients that fuel growing bodies and brains.
Parents of picky eaters should keep in mind not to set bad habits early on, relinquish control at the table, engage in power struggles, or give up in frustration. Instead, with a little patience and persistence, parents can help their children develop healthy eating habits.