Being choosy about food could be a sign of something dire. Here are three ways to help your picky eater get the nutrients he or she needs.
Nearly half of Singaporean parents surveyed by National University Hospital and Abbott Nutrition felt that their child was a picky eater. To many, this does not come as a surprise, since it is rare to find a child who eats pretty much everything. There’s even a term for it – the toddler appetite slump.
Picky eating is normal to a certain extent. But recent research in the Pediatrics journal found that when food preferences make it difficult for your child to eat with others, it could be a sign of more serious sensitivities. A picky eater has twice the risk of being diagnosed with depression or social anxiety.
Children with moderate signs of picky eating showed more indications of depression, social anxiety or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, as compared to non-picky eaters.
What’s more, if left to fester, selective eating could lead to a lack of nutrients and cause growth retardation.
Here are three ways parents can help:
1) Know the tell-tale signs of a picky eater
Parents should familiarise themselves with the tell-tale signs of picky eating. They can then tackle the ones their children demonstrate.
Common symptoms include refusal of food, constant gripes over what is served, throwing of tantrums during meals, resistance towards new food and an exceptionally slow pace of eating. Picky eaters typically prefer snacks instead of having a full meal, and have a liking of sweet and fatty foods over healthy types.
It is also crucial to understand the causes of picky eating, such as dislike of the taste, colour or texture of certain foods.
2) Make small changes at home
Try incorporating small amounts of the food they dislike in meals – instead of making it the star of a platter. When eating in, set specific meal and snack times so your child grasps the concept of hunger and fullness. It is also wise to focus on flavor, so for instance if your kid likes sweet stuff, you can have sweet sauces on the side and encourage them to dip their food in.
3) Seek professional help if necessary
Once your child finds it difficult to eat with his or her peers, it is best to consult a pediatrician. Various health clinics use a tactic called “food chaining” that gradually exposes a picky eater to different types of food, one at a time. For instance, if a child likes chicken, it is easier to introduce another chicken dish with a slight change of ingredients rather than jumping to shrimp.
Parents should be good role models by not being picky eaters themselves. A child could well be mirroring a parent’s habits.
Have you parented a picky child? Share your tips with us at firstname.lastname@example.org