PICKY eating is a common challenge among small children that often causes considerable parental anxiety. Picture: Pexels
PICKY eating is a common challenge among small children that often causes considerable parental anxiety. Picture: Pexels

How to win the war against picky-eating toddlers

By Vuyolwethu Fundam Time of article published Apr 15, 2021

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Getting toddlers to try new foods can be a nightmare for a vast majority of parents.

From the cardio of chasing them around to dealing with tantrums, it's a lot, we know.

Picky eating is a common challenge among small children that often causes considerable parental anxiety, according to a FUTURELIFE dietician, Bianca Tromp.

“Worried parents may find themselves rushing to the doctor as they navigate what can become the cause for daily conflict and concern," says Tromp.

A Quebec longitudinal study of child development in which 1 498 children from 2.5 years old to 4 years old were assessed at three intervals, found that 30% were picky eaters at some time during the 18 months of the study, although only 5.5% were picky eaters across all three intervals.

So, regardless of whether your toddler falls into the first 30% (the here-today-gone-tomorrow picky eater) or the last 5.5% (the picky eater die-hards), Tromp has some sound tips to help win them over:

Perseverance is key

As frustrated as you may be, don’t give up on offering your child new foods. According to a 2004 study, more than 90% of caregivers offered kids food they did not like only three to five times before giving up.

Studies however show that it takes offering your child new foods 10 –15 times before they begin to enjoy them.

Don’t force them to eat

This does not mean that you throw caution to the wind and avoid regular mealtimes altogether. Routine is essential, and regular meal and snack times (at the same time every day) are important to give your child a sense of security and stability.

Say no to sugary treats

This is a toughie because so many parents struggle with it – as good as your intentions are, you often just give in to your toddlers' demands because in your mind, “Some food is better than no food.” You’re not alone.

To get your child to start enjoying healthy alternatives, you are going to have to be prepared to say “no”, hold your ground and sit out tantrums if need be. They will quickly learn how serious you are, hunger will set in and they’ll try what’s on offer.

Add flavour, texture, and variety

The key to getting your fussy toddler to eat different foods is to introduce variety and flavour. By introducing new things, you will slowly train your child’s taste buds to enjoy more complex flavours.

For example, if your kid likes plain wholegrain pasta, try adding a little olive oil. Once that’s accepted, add some vegetables, then some chicken, and so forth.

Also, play around with textures. For instance, if you tried mashed vegetables one day, the next time, try offering them the same vegetables roasted or even raw.

You can also spread out different textured food throughout the day. For example, you can serve a bowl of cereal, like the FUTURELIFE Tots range (which is soft-textured) for breakfast followed by roasted vegetables for lunch, and crunchy textured fruits like an apple for snack time.

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