Taming a Picky Eater


As a baby transcends from infancy to toddlerhood, he/she gains a new freedom called ‘feet on the go’. Anything they dislike they’ll simply use their feet and run away from it. Very often, they love to use this gadget ‘the feet’ at meal times. While some toddlers may love whatever they are given to eat, others may make it the toughest job in the world to make them swallow down a tiny morsel out of the healthy platter you’ve prepared for them. They can frustrate you, make you cranky and put in an unknown guilt simply by not eating sometimes.

A mother would fret at her child for not eating and worry about their health and growth. But slow down Mom and think about the fact that this little human was until recently living mostly on milk. You gave him/her solids but mainly in pureed from. Now the child is supposed to eat out of a plate, munch his food and we want him/her to perform this ritual thrice a day. When you travel outside the country, especially to south-east Asia or like, and encounter a variety of food, which includes meat from all kind of fowls, animals including snakes, frogs, etc., what do you do? You feel yucky and look for something that identifies with your eating habits. It is just the same for your little one. Not every new thing can be very enjoyable to eat, but with a persistent presentation of different food groups in her/his daily meals, you can gradually get her accustomed to accepting the new flavours.

We have to understand that for a toddler eating has entered a new phase. He/she is trying out various forms, textures, colours and flavours of food, which in itself is an educating experience for him. The child is learning to develop taste and make food choices. The child is still small and has a tiny tummy. Therefore, he/she cannot gobble up all that is offered to him. The moment he feels full, and that could be after a couple of bites only, he’ll refuse to eat further. It’s just fine, and you need not fret. After a while, as food gets digested, soon the child will want to eat something as a snack. This is where parents make a mistake. Assuming it to be the kid’s desire to snack they would give him some biscuits/chocolate/juice or any other calories coated snack. The sugars from such snacking make them energised and yet again at the next mealtime they will not be much hungry.

The key is to make sure that while they eat with the family at proper meal time ( no matter how much) they get snack time at two-hour intervals in between and the food offered to them consists of good food items and not sugar laced snacks and juices.

Following some simple rules with persistence, you can help your fussy eater become a world food tasting expert.

• Always offer variety of healthy food to the child. If it’s rejected, do not fret. Reintroduce it in a different way the next day. Repeated attempts will eventually help child develop a taste for it.

• Eat together. Show how much you like the food. Do not be disappointed if you feel your child is not noticing it. Believe me, He Is. In addition, he is learning to like it.

• Praise your child for whatever little he eats, instead of making it a battle of wills at the dining table.

• Involve your child in food related activities. Make it fun. Like setting the table and grating vegetables with a safe hand grater into interesting shapes or mashing potatoes with a masher. Whisking up a batter or even cutting bread into different shapes with a butter knife.

• Do not force feed. If he rejects to eat after the first bite accepts it and let him go. The little one is not an actor and soon hunger pangs will make him look for food. Keep his left over food at easily approachable places and watch him devour it all later on all by himself. Do not offer a snack.

• If you give him packaged fruit juice, then dilute it with water. You do not want to overload your child with sugars.

• Last but not least note least divide his meal into six meals. Three main meals and three snack times. Note the maximum amount of food you can offer to him (typically a 2- 3 year old) in a meal/snack time:

Bread: ½ slice
Cereal: 1/3 cup
Fruit or vegetables: ¼ cup
Fruit juice: ¼ cup if pure, 2/4 cup if diluted with water
Crackers: four
Meat: 1/8 cup
cooked beans/lentils: ¼ cup