I have a little picky eater. I will have no problem with picky eating if he choose to be picky about eating unhealthy stuff like sausages, chips or sweets and eat the vegetables, fruits and milk that are good for him.
Unfortunately, the food he had the most problem with almost anything that is green in colour, milk and most other fruits and vegetables. At age three, he starts to reject almost all the vegetables and fruits we thought we have successfully gotten him to eat. The grandparents, child care teachers and other well meaning friends and relatives all offered advise and opinions. Some question the parenting method.
Cut the food small and give him everything. He will just refuse to eat or spit it out. Once, we were silently congratulating ourselves when he starts munching a chicken burger with lettuce when he release the “foreign object” in his mouth and subsequently vomit everything out. After he realize our scheme, he will carefully inspect his food and conduct a smell test before he proceed. The little bits of carrots and peas get pick out of fried rice. The onions in fried eggs got pulled out.
Say it’s crunchy and juicy and eat vegetables in front of him. He tells us we can have his too since we like it so much and no amount of coaxing, forcing or negotiation can get him to eat it. We will go “This is yummy and good for you” and my picky eater will pick the vegetables all out and feed them to me, going “ah..its good for mummy”
Is there a problem with picky eating?
Everyone will have some preference about their food. adults have food that they hardly eat and some they love. The main worry comes when the picky eating gets to a point where the child is not getting the nutrition he needs and not getting into the habit of healthy eating that may not be good for them in the long run.
It does cause more problems at childcare and preschool where the kids who picks may go hungry where the menu is fixed and kids who picks on their food go hungry. Some kids learn to say they are not hungry or full to avoid eating the things they don’t like.
Take it easy. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Well meaning people will have opinions about why my little one is not eating his vegetables. It was me not feeding it to him when he is weening. I am not firm with him to make him eat, I am not trying hard enough, doing it often enough or doing it correctly. These may all be true and I did blame myself at some point for my little boy not eating healtier.
It’s when I share more of my kid’s eating woes with more parents when I realize that I am not alone . Some parents who have more than one kids clams they did everything the same with each of their kids and one will turn out to be picky while the others are okay with most food. Others will have kids who eat the vegetables and fruits with no problem.
So don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault.
Meals times should be good times. Do not get stress up and force the child to eat.
Pressured with advise to be firm with my child on eating, we have our fair share of tantrums and red faces at the dinning table. Having a good meal with friends and family should be an enjoyable time. After many unpleasant meals trying to get my picky eater to take his vegetables, I finally come to a conclusion not to get stress up over what he eats. It only make meal time a war time over food rather than a time for us to enjoy and bond.
Researching about what to do with my picky eater also support not forcing kids to eat a particular food. So take it easy.
Work with what they do eat.
That does not mean that I gave up on getting my picky eater to eat more food.
Since my main concern is whether my kid gets enough nutrition he needs, I start finding out ways to incorporate them in the meals. Many parents have found means to give their picky eaters the nutrients too. Does the child takes milk or juice? One parent I know have a child who does not takes fruits or vegetables just make sure that they have juice everyday to make sure they have enough vitamins. Another parent just make sure her picky eater drink enough milk in addition to what she would eat.
One parent shares that her daughter likes sushi and she manage to get her to eat cucumber and carrots which she wrap in the sushi with mayonnaise to mask the raw taste of vegetables. Another mum finds making water cress soup a great way to give more calcium to her picky eating boy as he drinks the soup even though he would not touch the vegetables. I did not have much success with sushi or most soup but my boy does like corn and pasta sauce so I make sure to give him some for most meals. Vitamins and Calcium fortified bread with cheese also help me ensure that he get enough calcium even though he did not want milk.
Let them help with choosing, making and growing food.
One incident that helps me get my child to try more food is seemingly unrelated. He came back home with an onion bulb to grow from preschool one day and when the bulb grow into green spring onion. I suggest to my boy that may be we can eat it by cutting it into little pieces and frying it with egg. We tried just a few strands of spring onions at first and let my boy cut up the onions with scissor and mixed them with the eggs. Surprisingly, he tried it and like the taste and we now have one more source of fiber and anti-antioxidants to work with.
Kids can help wash vegetables, peel carrots and potatoes and mixing eggs. Let them help and they may be more receptive to eat the food they help make.
Vary the form and size.
Kids may not like certain food for different reason. It may be the smell, it may be too hard or soft, it may be the colour. My child will not eat stir-fried carrots or french fries but will only eat carrots and potatoes that are cook till it is melt in your mouth soft in soup. Another child I know only eat steam broccoli and not when it is cook in soup. So try different techniques, you never know if cooking it in a different way will appeal to the kid.
Camouflage and Mask
While cutting food into tiny pieces and mixing it with his rice did not work well with my kid, other methods of camouflaging food does have varying degrees of success. After I realize that my child reget many vegetables he does not like because he doesn’t like the smell, I lean to vary the portion of vegetables and cook it with food that mask the smell so he eats them.
Some dishes that worked well for us are fried rice, eggs, muffins, pizza and bake rice. Pasta sauce helps camouflage tiny bits of tomato and onions so I can add more of them to his pizza or mix it into fried rice together with the ingredients he likes. After he opens up to spring onions, it is convenient to hide tiny bits of spinach and cook them with eggs and cheese or add them into fried rice. Shredded carrots can be added into cheese and egg muffins, bake rice, fried eggs and rice too.
The advise out there is to be honest about what you feed them though, so I do let him know there is carrots in his fried rice after he happily ate his meal or when he saw me shredding the carrots.
When my kid’s friend tell him that the watermelon is yummy while they are out on a play date, he readily try them and realized he enjoys it. This is one fruit I have tried to offer him many times without much success. This does not work all the time but the water melon is one food item I was happy to finally be able to add our limited list of fruits he will eat.
Patience. Lots of it.
The experts says that it may take as many as 10 tries for a kid to try a new food. I am pretty sure there are food that we have try to get him to eat more than 10 times with very little success. Our list of vegetable and fruits that our picky eater eats grows slowly but meal time have grown more enjoyable for everyone.