Why are some children so fussy about food? Well, there are a number of reasons your child may turn up their nose at mealtimes, but it’s important to remember that picky eating is normal in young children.
This lovely article by NBC News lays out some of the key research and provides some suggestions on how best to approach fussy eating habits. Don't have the time to read the article? Here's the abridged version:
Why all the fuss?
Most of the time, it's not about the last two bites of green beans. A more likely option is that your child is trying to maintain control of the situation, and when a child rejects a certain food and we put pressure on them to eat that food, it becomes a negative experience.
Tips for defusing the power struggle:
1. Set realistic expectations
More often, if you’re giving a child a food for the first time, they’re probably going to be a little bit unsure at first.
2. Change up the menu
Lots of parents fall into the “peas is the only vegetable my child eats” trap — and then that parents serves peas every night.
3. Don't make separate meals
Catering to children's’ picky preferences drives the pickiness and never gives them a reason to try new foods.
4. Give children options you want them to eat
Don't stop providing healthy options regardless of the response. Eventually after seeing everyone else eat it, they’ll try it, maybe they’ll like it, and eventually it won’t be a problem
5. Separate behaviour issues from picky eating
If a child is screaming or throwing a tantrum at the dinner table, that’s a behaviour issue, not a picky eating issue. Try and separate the two and deal with them appropriately.
6. Involve kids in meal prep
Involving kids in meal prep makes them active participants and gives them a sense of control, and children like control, remember!
7. Don’t ban sweets, help kids manage when and how they eat them
You don't need to ban sweets, but you do need to provide some control. Give children guidelines about what that means — one dessert per day, three meals a day, one afterschool snack, or whatever the eating schedule is
8. Relax, enjoy it and make mealtimes the positive experience they should be
Not every meal is going to turn out perfect — and even the healthiest eater is going to have a day of eating that’s not as balanced as it could be