If your child is a picky eater, it can make you feel so frustrated you want to tear your hair out. But there could be reasons why your child is being picky. It might be that a certain food makes them feel unwell.
The most common food allergens in infant and children
The most commonly reported food allergens in infant and children include:
- Cow milk
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
Even if they are not allergic, they might have an intolerance, or a sensitivity. For example, many people are going gluten-free these days. Yet only around 6% of the US population is actually allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
An elimination diet in which you remove all these foods from your child’s diet might help get to the bottom of their food refusal.
Preferences in terms of texture and “mouth feel”
Some children don’t go by taste, but rather, the way it feels, such as soft, chewy, sticky, versus tough, crunch and so on. Making soups, stews and smoothies might make them more interested in their food. Processing the chunks in soups or stews, such as the vegetables, will make them thicker and smoother and prevent your child from picking out their carrots. A green smoothie can help you smuggle in multiple servings of fruits and vegetables like spinach and broccoli without your child ever knowing how healthy their ‘milk shake’ is for them.
Carrot cake, banana bread and zucchini bread are all easy ways to work in more servings of healthy natural foods. Use gluten-free flour and natural sweeteners in small amount, and healthy oils like canola or olive.
Make food fun
Arrange a rainbow of fruit on a plate. Cut their sandwiches into cute shapes using cookie cutters. Make things small so they can be finger foods they can eat easily in a bite or two.
Cook from scratch with your family
If you don’t cook with your child regularly, try it. In many cases, they will eat what they have made because they are so proud of it.
Enlist their help with shopping and meal planning
Once they are old enough to take shopping to a store, have them help you make smart choices at the store, clip coupons, look for sales, and count out the money to pay for the groceries. Food education starts when we are young and will last a lifetime.
Don’t bribe them
Don’t make the dinner table a battleground or bargaining area. Put the food in front of them and encourage them to eat, and be seen to eat everything yourself.