It’s day three and your finicky little fella is on a food strike, refusing to chow down on anything but cheese. What’s a mum to do?
“Food refusal and pickiness is a normal phase that most toddlers go through,” explains consultant nutritionist Clement Gan, who runs his own practice. “Just like adults, toddlers have their good and bad days.”
It may be frustrating, but be careful not to show your anxiety as your kiddo will pick up on that. Instead give these top tricks a try!
1. Get them involved
Eating together not only allows you and your family to spend time together, it’s also a chance for your child to observe how everyone eats and it encourages him to expand his palate. If they’re old enough, get your kiddos to help you with the food shopping and preparation as it will increase their exposure. “It’s fun for them to see how different foods look like and they can choose if they want their carrots cooked or raw,” explains Gan. Also, encourage self-feeding (and tolerate the mess). But most importantly, since kids learn from example, eat your veggies if you want junior to do the same!
Most importantly, since kids learn from example, eat your veggies if you want junior to do the same!
2. Give praise
Children aim to please and there’s no one they want to please more than their parents, so don’t be stingy on the “well done” and “good job” statements. “Do it even for simple work done such as chewing their food properly,” advises Gan. “And keep things positive – never label your kid as a 'picky eater'.”
3. Offer age-appropriate food in small portions
“Serve a small portion of food first, which can be topped up if child wants more,” says Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, a specialist in paediatrics at the Raffles Children’s Centre. Sometimes, your tot may refuse to eat something because he’s overwhelmed by its size so keep every bite-sized.
“Cut the vegetables into small pieces and put them into soups or stews,” suggests Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre. “Or wrap small pieces of vegetables together with dumplings or ravioli.”
4. Have timely meals and snacks
Little ones thrive on routine, it gives them a sense of security knowing what’s coming up next. Sticking to regular feeding times will allow them to expect when they should be eating and when they’re not. Feed at regular times, spacing out meals and snacks about three hours apart. If you’re about to offer a new food, Dr Wendy suggests you do it when your child is at his hungriest so he’s more likely to try it. “And serve it with some of his favourite foods, dips or sauces,” she adds.
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