Simple Solutions to Beat Picky Eating

There is a vast difference between a child who eats selectively and a screaming demon who refuses to touch anything that isn’t shaped like a nugget. Unless you are a family of pirates, you probably prefer your children to be scurvy-free. So when your child has texture sensitivities (or an obsessive preference for high-carb, low-nutrient cuisine), parental stress levels can rise faster than store-bought muffin mix.

If your internet search history includes entries along the lines of, “Can toddlers survive on fish fingers and strawberries?” then this article is for you.

When my second child was a toddler, I discovered the terrifying true meaning of so-called ‘”picky eating.” My child’s intense aversions (to almost every food in existence) made me re-evaluate my entire approach to parenting. If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the father of creative problem-solving.

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Sadly, I am not rich enough to eat out every night. Nor am I crazy enough to create an exciting fictional backstory for every meal I prepare. But I have a few tips for fellow parents of potential pirates.

  • Don’t buy into the power struggle paradigm. Your child is not trying to manipulate you. Your child is trying to communicate. There is a difference.
  • If your child has a preference for certain tastes, try to respect that. It might mean your meal-planning looks less-than-traditional, but if you’re going to end up throwing broccoli in the bin anyway, you might as well just cook corn in the first place.
  • Keep your own stress away from the table. You might be worried about potential malnourishment, but your toddler doesn’t care about omega 3 fatty acids. The less your child associates stress with food, the better. Scary in the short term, but priceless in the long run. Try to relax.
  • Don’t punish your child for refusing to eat a particular food. The only things punishment will reinforce are fear, stress, and resistance. If your child associates those emotions with eating, their food-related issues will worsen.
  • Let your child leave the table when they’ve had enough, not when their plate is empty. Avoid dinnertime power play. If your child is hungry later, let them snack on something before bed.
  • Have a selection of food your child is allowed to eat anytime, without having to ask. My kids know they are allowed to help themselves to fruit, yoghurt, toast, or cereal whenever they like. This enables them to respond to their own hunger-cues. It also reinforces autonomy, and allows them to graze throughout the day on their own terms.
  • Buy vitamin supplements if you need to. If you are worried your child is not getting…

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