A child with picky eating disorder chooses to eat food selectively, with a preference for one food type over others. Whole grain and vegetables are the least liked food types by a picky eater who prefers instead, candy and fast foods.
The disorder affects close to a third of all the children around the world. There is no defined time frame when the eating disorder strikes but is particularly common in one-year-olds or thereabouts.
At this time a child is grappling with new discoveries and distractions like walking, talking and running. For this and other reasons, he or she may lose interest in certain food types yet develop a craving for others which seem convenient.
Generally, a picky eater may exhibit some or all of the following habits:
- Prefers one food type over others
- Unwilling to try new food types
- Dislikes vegetables
- Not interested in fruits
This behavioral disorder may persist up to 7 years and in rare cases, continues till adulthood. At an advanced and worrying stage, this may graduate to a more disturbing disorder known as neophobia.
Picky eating disorder may happen because of the following:
- A reflection of similar behavior in the parent
- Sensitivity to food types
- Inappropriate feeding schedule
- Bad cooking
- Pressure to eat
- Excessive calorie intake before mealtimes
The extensive use of smartphones and tablets is also eating into the fabric of traditional family order. Children now spend less time doing what they normally should and getting addicted to computing devices. As a result, children will always favor playing games on tablets over eating.
Below are 5 fun tricks to get you started
Whereas parents need not lose sleep over picky eating, they may need to consult a pediatrician if the condition worsens or leads to ill health.
1. Set An Example
The parents, siblings and everyone else in the house greatly contribute to shaping the lifelong habits of the new family member. The child basically looks on, then mimics and absorbs whatever he or she sees. Not a single step will be missed!
Picky and other bad eating habits on the dinner table will be picked up immediately. On the other hand, a child will value fruits, leafy greens and all the suspect servings, if those around the dinner table are relishing them.
2. Reach Out and Learn
It is pointless to get hyper if a child loses interest in select nutritious foods. Instead, establish a communication channel to get the matter sorted out. It is the child alone with the right idea why one type of food is good and another one bad.
Start by paying attention, to the little details. Then you will learn to interpret why a one-year-old kid hates vegetables and is excited about cookies. Be ready to avail a collection of foodstuffs to make this exercise easy. Put in a mix of colors, aroma, and taste.
At 2 years and over, discuss with him/her the benefits that come with eating certain types of food in place of others. I know some parents disagree with this, but it has worked for many others.
For example, let the child know that carrots will improve eyesight and leafy greens will help the body fight off common colds. On the other end, excessive intake of sweets, soda, and cookies will spoil the teeth. Do not lie though that carrots will make the eyes see in the dark!
3. Implement an Eating Schedule
Picky eating disorder usually starts when a family has a bad eating schedule. It is a recipe for disaster if family members are open to juggling cookies, juice, and other stuff 30 minutes before a full meal. With a full stomach, the child will be averse to eating the now ‘planned’ meal 30minutes later.
Restricted time frames ensure a child is hungry enough to eat most of the foodstuff served. Three full meals a day is good enough with snacks and drinks served along the way, but not close to the full meal.
4. Entice Instead of Forcing
It is no use forcing a child to eat food he/she finds repelling. It ferments the picky eating habit even further. A child will assume that eating undesired food goes along with force.
Occasionally though, use the hunger bait to get the job done. This may mean tweaking the eating schedule a little bit. Be careful not to make it a permanent habit though.
To do this effectively, leave the child to play outdoors till hunger begins to bite. When a child rushes to find food in the house, have your preferred alternatives scattered around the house. Bananas, apples, pineapples, jackfruit and whatever else is applicable will do the trick.
Be available to monitor this impromptu meal times to ensure it is done correctly. Add other healthy foods in the mix but caution must be taken to protect the child from extended spells of hunger. This easily becomes a breeding ground for other complications like stomach ulcers.
Again, this should be done sparingly and only for extreme cases. Scheduled meal-times should take precedence most of the time.
5. Mealtimes Minus Tech
While we all agree it is a habit that should not see daylight, it is increasingly becoming commonplace. Research indicates over a third of smartphone owners check their social platform feeds as they eat.
And now, with increasing mobility and families not having meals together, the habit is becoming hard to combat. After all, nobody is around to monitor or caution.
However, this should not be happening at the dinner table in your home. It is a bad habit that should work both ways. No double standards for grown-ups.
Neither should kids sit next to their tablets or watch a movie on TV or computer. Mealtimes must be tech-free, to cut out addiction at the expense of food.