This month’s information sessions have been dedicated to a topic we can all relate to as parents and caregivers: Tips for reducing “picky eating”.
We’ve all seen it – children refusing to eat certain foods, textures, colours – and their preferences changing like the wind from one day to the next. How do we as parents and caregivers help our children create healthy attitudes and behaviours around eating?
“Being creative, staying patient and continuing to offer new foods without a fuss can help your child enjoy mealtimes and develop lifelong healthy eating habits”.Nutrition Matters, Toronto Public Health
What Causes Picky Eating?
Let’s understand why this is happening in the first place, and shed some light on what “picky eating” is about. According to Toronto Public Health, there are a number of reasons your child eats less or refuses foods:
- Growth – There will be days when a child is more or less hungry because of their growth rate.
- How they’re feeling – If a child is tired, upset, sick or stressed, this will affect how they eat.
- Distractions – They may rather play than sit and eat!
- Pressure – Any kind of pressure to eat does not work.
- Taste – Young children have a high sensitivity to taste, smell, shape, and texture – or they simply may not like it!
- Fear of something new – Young children commonly are afraid of new or unknown foods.
- Independence – Young children prefer feeding themselves, and showing their independence by choosing what to eat.
- Attention – Refusing can sometimes gain them the attention they seek from their parent or caregiver.
- Role modelling – Your child may be coping the behaviour of another child who refuses to eat a particular food.
- Drinking lots of fluid – Filling up on milk or juice will impede their interest in eating.
3 Tips for Success
There are a number of tips to support parents and caregivers in feeding a picky eater, and creating healthy eating habits. One thing to remember when reading through these tips: your child decides how much to eat and whether or not they’ll eat, while the parent / caregiver decides what foods to offer, when, and where meals take place. It may take them 15 times for your child to like a new food, so be patient and try to have fun with these tips and strategies:
- Offer a variety of foods: Try using Canada’s Food Guide to plan meals and snacks, making an effort to make food be interesting and fun. You might try serving different shapes, colours and textures of food, ensuring lots of finger food options. When introducing a new food, try offering it alongside something familiar.
- Set regular times: Children do well with routine, so serve 3 meals and 2 snacks at the same time daily. Keep portions to a child-size amount, and leave enough time between meals to allow their appetite to build. Offer water between meals to satisfy thirst (rather than juice or milk), and limit milk to no more than 3 cups a day. Juice is best to avoid or limit altogether. Why not incorporate morning circle and snack at Creating Together into your daily routine?
- Make mealtimes enjoyable: Healthy eating is made so much easier when families sit down and enjoy meals together. This is an opportunity to be a good role model: eat a variety of foods yourself, turn off devices and tv, and bring your attention to your tummies and your time together. Other ways to make meals fun are to involve your child in meal planning, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and setting the table. Keep stress low by allowing preschoolers to leave the table when they are full, and not having rules be too strict at the table.
Looking for some fun activities to do at Creating Together, to make meals fun? Join us for the monthly Toddler Food Preparation Workshop with Marcella from FoodShare, and bring a dish to celebrate Thanksgiving at our Potluck Lunch next month!
Resources and Information
Toronto Public Health: 416-338-7600
EatRight Ontario: 1-877-510-5102 Ontario.ca/EatRight
Ontario Early Years Centres Information Line: 1-866-821-7770
Canadian Pediatric Society: caringforkids.cps.ca