Avoiding Picky Eaters All Together

There are going to be some children that are just born that way. They are going to be picky no matter what you do. I am sorry, really sorry, but this isn’t written for you.

As we have already discussed sugar is addictive, and it is in pretty much every processed food out there. If from a young age you give your child packaged food there is a chance they will become addicted to sugar. Once this happens you will have a picky eater on your hands.

What does this look like? A child who only wants breads and fruits, at best. At worst, a child that will only eat mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and chips.

If you think about yourself, most of the time you would just prefer have junk food. However, you understand the consequences of this. Sometimes those consequences do not outweigh the desire to have junk food. Other times you realize your body needs you to eat nutritious foods. Your child does not understand the consequences of eating bad food. Unless they have a food allergy they probably will not understand this for along time.

The easiest way to avoid a picky eater is just to avoid sugar and processed food all together for as long as possible. My son is almost two and half. He has had very little processed food and almost no refined sugar. He still has his picky moments, but avocado is his favorite food. Once they realize cookies and cakes are a part of everyday life, they will do their best to have that over vegetables.

This is why most pediatricians recommend you start with vegetable purees. Even at the young age when they first start eating their palate is being developed. If you start with bananas, which are one of the highest fructose (sugar) containing fruits, their palate will become use to that level of sweetness. Breaking this is a long process, if you have ever given up sugar for lent you understand what I am talking about.

Bottom line: You can avoid creating a picky eater all together. You just have to start as soon as they start eating, by avoiding sugar and processed foods.

Avoid Rewards

Do not start the slippery slope of rewarding your child with food, especially sweets. The problem this causes is twofold - it elevates the sugary item’s status even more and begins the power tug of war over food.

You know how children are… you ask them to do something and they see how long they can wait to do it. Everything is a game of perception. That is why everyone sings that annoying song when they clean-up toys. They are trying to help the child perceive cleaning up as fun. The same goes for rewarding with sugary items or foods in general. It changes their perception of food. Food is not suppose to be a game or something they have to work for to get. It is a part of life, it is something they need to grow big and strong, eating is an expectation that you have for them.

Picking eating can happen due to plenty of reasons, but behavior issues is one. There are also plenty of reason why picky eating can be due to behavior, but the main reason I see is because rewards were being used to get a child to eat. Research has proven that over time if we receive a reward from doing an action not only do we lose interest in doing that action, but we lose interest in the reward itself. Though your child losing interest in dessert mighty be a good thing, we do not want them to lose interest in eating all together.

If you can never start the reward game that is the best way to avoid a picky eater. If you have already started the reward game try moving to “now, that” statements. Now that you have eaten dinner would you like dessert? Instead of, if you eat dinner then you can have dessert. Then eventually wean them off dessert all together.

Mindful Eating

Teaching your child how to sit and enjoy their time eating is a huge tool in avoiding a picky eater. If the perception of meal time is positive then eating what is on their plate is much more plausible. There are a few ways to do this.

Sit down as a family and have dinner together. Spend the time enjoying each other and the food you are eating. You can start this at a very young age, even before they are verbal. The benefits of this are endless, but one benefit is the positive perception they will have in relation to food.

Try not eating on the run or in a hurry. Taking the time to sit and enjoy will actually allow them to taste the food. This way they grow to enjoy flavors and textures. If they are eating while they are playing they are not even really registering what they are eating. This is important especially at a young age. You want them to have a broad palate and a positive relationship with food.

Help Them Explore

Food is just another thing you are teaching your child about. They may be nervous to try new things, or picky. You have to walk them through this. One way to avoid a picky eater all together is to start this early and do it often.

You can help them explore new foods in lots of different way. Restaurants are a great way. Challenging them to try new things on a menu, and generally just exposing them to things they are not use to seeing is great. This applies to what you order too. Try something new, let them see it and watch you learn to eat something new. They may just follow suit.

Theme nights at home is another great way. Have a culture based evening: Chinese, Spanish, or Indian. Get into it. Carry it into things other than the menu if you can. For example eat on the floor around the coffee table one night. Have fun with it.

Bottom line: If you can start young it will be much easier to never go down the picky eating road. If you are already there try to make some small changes to try new things.

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