I work with the Breathe Institute in Westwood, CA to provide nutritional counseling and coaching services to patients that we serve. Many of our patients are young children, described by their parents as picky eaters. Parents bend over backwards to get nutrition, any kind of nutrition, into their children for fear of them not getting adequately nourished. Understandably so. BUT there are some caveats.
Picky eating is a common challenge in young children. At the Breathe Institute, we see issues like tongue-tie and lip-tie that make it difficult for children (even for adults) to eat certain foods because of anatomical restrictions in the oral cavity.
In the absence of anatomical problems or health conditions that make it difficult or uncomfortable for children to eat certain foods, picky eating can just be a normal bump in the road of childhood development. For example, learning to control the tongue is a skill that has to be practiced, and sometimes kids just have issues with certain textures. This is particularly the case when a child transitions to eating solid foods.
Did you know it can take introducing a new food multiple times before it is accepted? Some children will take to a new food after a couple of introductions, and with others, it may take anywhere between 10 to 20+ introductions! If your child doesn't like a new food the first, or even eighth time you offer it to him, this isn't a reason to throw in the towel. Eating a variety of whole real foods is important for your child to grow and develop normally, and you CAN get them to eat these foods.
Here are some ideas that may help:
Keep offering the food you are attempting to get your child to eat. Your child does not have to eat it. Simply exposing your child to it however is an important part of the process. It is ok for your child to pick up the food, play with it and feel it. This allows your child to get used to the food and it is part of the process.
Wait to offer your child a new food until he is really and truly hungry. If he’s already full from eating other foods, there won’t be much motivation to try something new.
Children are very impressionable, and are great imitators. They will be more likely to want what you are eating, so make your own dietary choices wisely.
Do not panic! While it is frustrating to get your child to diversify his dietary intake, if you are anxious during meals, he’ll pick up on it.
Your child may simply need the time and freedom to explore eating new foods. Be patient, be persistent, and watch the magic happen.
For more tips for your picky eater, you can download this free handout. You can also work with me to develop a longer term plan to make sure your child gets the nutrients he needs to grow and develop, especially if he is experiencing health conditions that make proper nutrition difficult.
"Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a clinical nutritionist, I can help you connect the dots to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition." -Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist