DECEMBER 29, 2008
(STAR)Giving young picky eaters better nutrition By Joy Padua - Three-year-old Kai has been on the dinner table for almost two hours, and he has yet to finish even half of his food. From time to time, he would gag and cry for mercy for the feeding to stop. But when served with chocolate-flavored breakfast curls, he eagerly munches on.

If this sounds familiar, then you have a picky eater. It is normal for a child, especially a toddler, to reach the stage wherein he would have a special preference for a particular type of food. That special food will most likely become part of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in-between snacks. He may even ask for it even when you’re out of the house and malling.

Patience is the most important virtue when it comes to handling picky eaters. As a parent, you must try your best not to give in to your child’s food whims, especially if his choice of food is something that has little or no nutritional value at all. Neither should you force your child to eat what you deem is right for him. This move will only make him resent food all the more.

Smart Love author Martha Pieper says young children refuse food not because they refuse to eat, but because they are making a decision on what they want to eat.

“Children two to five years old are learning to be independent. They are learning what they like and don’t like and making choices based on these things. They can tell you what they think, feel, and want. That’s one of the main reasons toddlers refuse food or become picky eaters. They want to decide for themselves,” says Pieper.

It may be difficult to explain to a two-year-old about the importance of picking the right kinds of food to eat, but you as a parent can still make room for ways to swing the child over to your side.

Here are some tips provided by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (Mayo Clinic) on how to give your picky eater better nutrition without putting up a food fight on the table:

• Wait for your child’s hunger to come. Since young children tend to eat only when they are hungry, it is okay not to force them to eat during meal-times.

• Keep your cool. Don’t show frustration or disappointment with your child’s picky eating habits. Threatening and punishing them will only end up with a battle of wills between you and your child.

• Be time-conscious. Avoid feeding your child anything for at least an hour before mealtime. Chances are, your child will be hungry come mealtime and be more open to different foods served on the table.

• Lower your expectations. Kids over two years old usually reduce their appetite. Giving them a few bites may be all he needs to feel full.

• Control liquid calorie intake. While milk and juices are important for healthy growth and development, these may make your child feel full without eating solid foods.

• Give a little at a time. Serve small portions of several foods and let your child choose which ones to eat.

• Move over for leftovers. Allow your child to stop eating when he feels full. Forcing him to finish his food may result in a power struggle over food.

• No taste talk. Don’t ask about the taste of the food. Instead, talk about the food’s color, shape, smell, and texture.

• Allow food checks. Young picky eaters may touch and smell food that is new to them. At times they would even put it in their mouth, only to spit it back out. It may require repeated exposure to new food for him to finally have the courage to take a bite.

• Serve fun. Make mealtimes fun and interesting. Make various shapes out of food using cookie cutters. Draw shapes out of mayonnaise on top of sandwiches. A mayonnaise dip will be delightfully nutritious for carrots and similar vegetables.

• Be a role model. What you eat may be what he will also get, so take the opportunity by eating a variety of healthy foods in front of him.

• Outsmart. Sneak in some chopped broccoli in spaghetti or do something nutritiously similar to your child’s favorite food.

• Let him do the pairing. If your child is not fond of ingredients put together in one serving, set them apart. For example, put bread slices on the sides of the plate, a clump of mayonnaise on another side, and the main fixing in the middle.

• Serve meals on the dot. Be consistent with the time you serve meals every day.

• Get rid of distractions. Turn off the TV, store the books and toys away, and keep food only on the dining table.

You can be as creative as you can and add more to these tips. Remember, you are still the parents and only you know what is best for your child.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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