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One normal complaint you will hear when a group of mommies are discussing their toddlers is , “ my child does not eat enough”. As a mother it can be really frustrating to run around your kids with a plate of food that they refuse to touch or throwing yet another plate of uneaten food.
Here we help you understand why your toddler may be fussy and picky at mealtimes and what you can do to combat this problem.
Why is your toddler a fussy eater?
It is common for many toddlers to fuss over food and avoid eating new foods. Here are some reasons for this
- They are wary of trying new foods : For toddlers, solid food is still a new thing that they are getting used to. They take time to get accustomed to the different flavours, textures, tastes and colours of food. Children may be wary of trying new food as a natural instinct and may refuse food which seems unfamiliar to them.
- They are asserting their freedom : Fussy eating may be a way for the toddlers to assert their freedom. They may just try and test the limits of the parent’s authority by deciding to eat or not eat certain food.
- They may not require as much food as you think : As per paediatrics kids experience a natural dip in appetite at age two since this is a time when rapid growth starts to slow down hence they may eat a little less around this time. From the age of 1 to 6 kids go throw many growth spurts. They may eat more during the growth spurts and lesser otherwise.
- They are more interested in exploration : While you may be frustrated with your kid’s tendency to play with food and /or to run away while eating food, remember that this is the time they are learning about their environment, they do not like to sit still and would rather move about and explore things and this may lead to fussy eating.
- You may be forcing your child to eat more than required : As a parent it is normal for you to be worried about the nutrient intake of your kids, but one mistake that many parents make is they try and ensure that the child finishes everything on his plate. Your child’s appetite may differ everyday depending on things such as his daily activity. Forcing a child to eat may create a natural aversion to food .
A healthy eating nutrition chart for your kid:
Tips to handle fussy eaters
Here are some tips that will help you in handling your fussy toddler and encouraging healthy eating habits.
#1. Respect your child’s hunger or lack of it
Never force a meal or snack in case your child is not hungry. Alos avoid bribing or forcing your child to eat certain food or cleaning his /her plate. This behaviour can ignite or reinforce a thought that mealtimes are battlegrounds. Your kid may also begin to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration and may seek to avoid it as much as possible. Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child. This will also encourage them to identify their own hunger cues and they will ask for more if needed.
#2. Encourage early and repeated exposure to healthy food
Start the introduction of healthy food at an early age. Ever since you introduce solids, try and expose your kid to different kinds of food groups and include these in their diet regularly. As per nutrition experts it may take up to 15 ‘exposures’ to a new food before the child may begin accepting it. IF you did not introduce a variety of foods when you started solids, ensure that you begin exposing your child to different foods regularly , now.
#3. Make meal time a positive experience
Make mealtimes fun and relaxed. If possible switch of the television and other digital devices. Eating as a family, sharing stories about your day and listening to theirs will make your kids look forward to meal times.
#4. Be a role model
If you and your partner eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit. When you sit down to eat with them, make sure you never avoid eating certain food or say you do not like certain food. Children are very keen observers and you should be an ideal role model for them when it comes to eating nutritious food.
#5. Make meal times consistent
Make a daily feeding routine that is customized to your child’s playing and sleeping pattern. If you are feeding your child when they are too tired or too sleepy they may not be very keen to eat. Include three meals and two to three nutritious snacks, spaced throughout the day. A proper routine will help your child know what to expect and he/she may get more willing to eat at set routines with a little bit of patience and practice.
#6. Involve your toddler
You would have seen from experience that kids just love to to touch and play with food. Give them a chance to help you in preparation of food. From arranging the salad bowl to serving chapatis or putting their own fillings on sandwiches etc, joining in the meal preparation will give them a sense of ownership and connection and increase the likelihood of eating the meal.
#7. Make it fun
Cut fruits and vegetables in different shapes with cookie cutter. Try and serve a variety of brightly colored foods. A colorful salad or fruit bowl will definitely be attractive to your child. Get creative with servings, serve the food in interesting cutlery with their favourite cartoon characters.
#8. Consider adding nutritional powders to the diet
It is normal to be worried about ensuring that your fussy toddler gets the right nutrients in his diet. The lack of important nutrients may lead to less than optimum physical and mental growth in kids. Hence you should add nutritional powders such as Enfagrow to the diet of your kids which will ensure they get all the micro and macro nutrients in recommended doses which may otherwise be missing from their food.