Junior’s choosy eating habits might be affecting more than your grocery list…

The picky-eating phase, something that seems to be a rite of passage for most toddlers, is every parent’s nightmare. Although a phase that junior should eventually outgrow, the picky-eating days can have lasting effects, especially on your child’s growth and development.

At this stage, your little one will not be open to consuming a variety of food. However, continually feeding them the same dish at every meal can also contribute to a delay in their growth and development.

“Foods within each of the different food groups confer different nutritional benefits. Thus if a toddler were to only eat the same foods every day, they may be lacking in certain essential nutrients — which would then impair growth and development,” says Charlotte Lin, a senior dietitian at National University Hospital.

More than simply lacking nutrients from a variety of foods, and risking falling short of their daily calorie requirements, your child might lack specific micronutrients.

“If there is inadequate calorie intake over a period of time, the child’s weight gain and subsequent height growth may be affected. The child’s neurocognitive development or learning may also be affected if his/her diet is significantly deficient in micronutrients such as iron or essential fatty acids,” says Dr Michelle Tan, an associate consultant at National University Hospital.

To ensure that your little one is growing and developing without any disruptions, you will need to keep track of their growth (height and weight). This record will also enable you to ensure that they receive the nutrients they require.

Keep reading to find out how you can help your picky eater...

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You can do this by monitoring your tot’s height and weight over a period of time. There are also warning signs that your child is not receiving the nutrients they need for their growth and development:

*Not growing out of clothes.
*Pallor (unhealthy, pale appearance).
*Skin lesions around mouth.
*Thinning hair.
*Delayed tooth eruption.
*Slow and stagnating weight increments.

To encourage your little one to consume a variety of foods, it is important that you act as their role model and lead them in having healthy eating habits yourself. You should also continue to introduce and expose junior to different foods within each food group.

“If no fruits and vegetables are being eaten on an ongoing basis, a multivitamin and mineral supplement may be useful in the short term, while working on increasing acceptance. Ask your healthcare professional to recommend a preparation,” advises Meave Graham, a pediatric dietitian at Child Nutrition Singapore.

“Choose a preparation that offers 100 per cent or less of the daily requirement for nutrients. Mega-doses (high doses) of vitamins and minerals are NOT recommended.”

Another way to encourage your little one to be less picky is by involving them in food shopping, preparation and to also educate them about the food they are consuming.

If this is done in an interesting manner, for example, by making a mini game out of buying good veggies or fresh fish in the supermarket, it might make the food more appealing and interesting for junior.

Meave Graham is a pediatric dietitian at Child Nutrition Singapore.

Dr Michelle Tan is an associate consultant at the Paediatric Feeding and Nutrition clinic at National University Hospital

Charlotte Lin is a senior dietitian at the Paediatric Feeding and Nutrition clinic at National University Hospital

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