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Picky Eaters: Why do my children not want to eat?

I have been seeing a lot of posts about picky eaters.  It seems that when the child hits the age of being able to say “No” and learn that they can control things especially food, they do.

picky eater

“Fussiness and the aversion to try new foods tends to peak between the age of 2–6 years. And even children previously thought of as “good eaters” can start rejecting any new food and even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed.” Dealing with fussy eaters:  www.netmums.com

My child was not immune to this behavior as well.  He went from eating lots and everything, then at the age of 2 only white pasta or plain meats etc. It was like all of sudden a switch went off and all the flavor was sucked from the food.  Why did he go from eating everything, (Mexican, Asian, cheese, tomato sauce and more) to just plain food? Was this control issues?  I know I was going crazy trying to figure out what to do.  How to get him to eat at the same time not be a short order chef making many different meals.  I for one was not going to do it, but when you see your child refuse to put the food in their mouth you panic.  You think he is going to starve, he is not listening to you when you say eat your food, he is just doing a power trip, will he be getting enough nutrition eating only plain pasta?  The questions go on and the frustration with it.  I see this with the posts by the moms.

pressure eating

You can not force a child to eat if they do not want too, but you can control the environment around them to help them back to eating again.

food helpingLet them Help out:

I have found that with my child doing things like having him help me cook was a great start.  I would let him stir batters, add ingredients to the bowl, even make small lunches with sandwiches that he felt proud to be helping.    He also loved it when I gave him two options of veggies and said which one do you want.  Give selections is great for getting them involved and lessen the power trip they have on the food.  They feel they picked it, so they have a sense of pride, and will eat it.  We give the selections and they choose, that is how we can help them select healthy foods in the future.    There are a few more pointers in the article below.

Help Them Know When They’ve Had Enough: choosemyplate.gov

Give finger foods as well:

kids eatingChildren sometimes just need to eat with their hands.  So sometimes throw the fork and spoon out and let them have fun with finger foods.  Sandwiches, cut carrots and cucumbers, corn, anything that can be picked up and eat with fingers.  They will get older and have plenty of meals with using a fork, knife and spoon. Annabel Karmel posted a few in the link below, I just love her cook books of kids foods.

10 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Finger Foods : These bite-sized snacks and meals are perfect for picky eaters. From Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Finger Foods

mushrooms1Have fun with it:

Create a theme night and have them even dress up, create foods that go with that theme.  Use cookie cutters and make the food in different shapes,  Use brightly colored foods and even swap meals (lunch for breakfast or breakfast for dinner) There are many options below in Melissa Stavarski’s Pinterest Fun Food for Kids check it out.

Fun Food for Kids: forkly.com

Encourage new foods:

funny food

This will carry on  into their teens and possibly young adult life.  You will need to introduce, and keep introducing the foods.  My son would do this to many times.  He really thought he hated cheese (all cheeses) but basically it was the word he hated.  He loved mozzarella (not a cheese to him) and he found out he liked ricotta, cream cheese.  I had to introduce and keep doing it getting him to at least try it.  He is 11 now and finally realize that it doesn’t hurt to try and that he might actually like it.  We just added Burrata to his list of likes a month ago.

Encouraging children to try new foods – Netmums

family mealsStick to routine:

You can not expect your child to eat if dinner fell on when he is supposed to go to bed.  He is tired.  There were times when we would go to friends house to have dinner and they followed the Italian time scale for eating (late around 8 or even 9).  I followed the American still eat at 6:30 7:00 the most.  So my young child would sometimes fall asleep at the table and needless to say did not eat a thing.  Also, do not allow juice or milk outside of meals.  I personally only allowed milk for breakfast and water the rest of the time they only got juice or soda on special occasions.  Juice and Milk will fill up your child and then you can forget them eating.  Some more good eating advice can be found at this link.

Healthy Eatingkidshealth.org

portion controlPortion Size:

Believe it or not little children do not need large amounts.  Most likely you are feeding too much.  Our minds have been set nowadays to larger portions even for ourselves so we mentally believe that our kids are not eating enough.  You can find more on portion control in a previous post.

Kids Eat Right – Portion Distortion – firenzemoms4moms.wordpress.com

Table Time- Making It Right:

Seating seeingit at the table with your children and eat with them and chat with them.  No tv, radio, cell phones or internet distracting you and your child from eating.   Give the time with them and enjoy listening to them.  They will feel more at ease if you are sitting with them and chatting with them.

This is something I have always done.  Even if my husband could not make it, I would always have my dinner with my children.  I use it now to catch up on school events.  They also see me eat the foods and not anything different, and important factor for them to see only one meal is served and that is it. They were also told to sit at the table the time that we are having the meal no to get up until all were done.

food dessertDo not use dessert as a reward and do not pressure them to eat.  Both cause for a stressful environment.  It teaches them to  expect dessert all the time and  that it is the best part of the meal which could cause them to really like the sweets and down the line could lead to obesity.  Pressuring them to eat cause them to not eat even more, especially if they are doing it as a control.  This has been noted to cause eating disorders during their preadolescence and adolescent years.  A good article about pressuring to eat in the years 2-4 and what can happen is below.

Pressuring Children To Eat Increases Risk Of Obesity – medicalnewstoday.com

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