Updated: Mar 24
A lot of parent appears to be in a lot of constant struggle (including myself) with their children when it comes to eating. Every day is different, they can be the best eater one day and the next is “NO, NO, NO” for all the foods they used to like before, leaving parent scratching their heads.
I believed that eating is a learned behavior and we can foster that sophisticated palate at a very young age. What is young you ask? The answer is infancy (Day 1) You can expose your infant to different flavor through your breast milk. How neat is that?!?! Mother’s breast milk changes according to the types of food she’s eating. So, the more variety of foods you eat, the more complex taste your milk will be and the baby is less likely to reject new foods later on as they already are familiar with the flavor .
Well, formula mamas don’t get discouraged either, any duration of breastfeeding you can provide still shows good benefits and reduces their risk of becoming a picky eater when they reach pre-school age. Remember: Any breastfeeding is better than nothing. You can still teach your young child to eat a variety of foods when they are starting complimentary foods (right about 6 months of age).
Here’s a few tips that can get you started:
The eating environment for your child should be enjoyable. No distraction of TV, video games, phone and tablet. All electronics to be turn off at meal time. Meal time should be around the same time everyday. Kids does well with routine and it does take about 6-7 weeks to build up a new habit. All family members needs to sit down at the table and eat together. Everyone needs to eat the same food (correct texture and consistency for the young infant), family style. Let the children pick and choose what they wanted, at least all food should be sampled. No yelling, shouting or force feeding as we don’t want your kid to associate eating with bad experiences.
Baby and toddler are smart, they observe adults behavior and emulate them. They also learn to manipulate the parent so they get what they wanted. So parent needs to be consistent (Both mom and dad) in relaying the same message for their kids when it comes to food and eating. If you are not an adventurous eating, please don’t expect that your child will eat everything you ask them to. Be a role model for your children, eat and try new food in front of them.
IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE TRY
The key is “Try new food”, it takes repetition of 9-10 tries of introduction of the same food before the kid will accept/like them. Just because they don’t like it in the beginning, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t try it again. Sometimes is the texture they don’t like, so be in tune with the types of foods your child enjoys.
HAVE FUN WHILE LEARNING
For young children less than 3 years old, let them play with the food. It’s going to be messy but allowing the children to play with food will reduces their anxiety of eating them later on. Set them up on high chair or booster seat and teach them about the food, play (brush their teeth with it, splash, smash, tear) and then show them how you cook with it in food later on.
Take them to grocery stores and let them pick a new food (preferably fresh foods, not processed) from the isle and both of you can explore together what to make using it. Making food into fun shapes and sizes with cookie cutter would work too.
Educate your young child why the food is good for them, whether it be strong bones, good vision, become a super hero that they admires or becoming strong and tall like the athletes they wanted to become or grow tall enough to get to the rides in adventure parks.
DON’T SKIMP ON FLAVOR
Food doesn’t have to be bland. It can have some flavor. Infant less than one year old is best to stay away from salt but you can include other herbs and spice (Not spicy) to amp up the flavor of foods. But, if your children prefers bland food, that’s ok too, as long as they are open in trying different foods.
NO SNACKING 1 1/2-2 HOURS BEFORE MEAL TIME
Children stomach capacity is small. If they snack too close to meal time, then they wouldn’t be hungry at meal time. Then you’ll be struggling to even get him/her to take a bite of food, but then later at bedtime they will be asking for cereal when they become hungry. Occasionally that’s ok when you don’t want to deal with power struggle with your stubborn child (we are all human after all). However, if it continuous, then the children will learn that it’s acceptable for him/her not to eat lunch/dinner because he/she will get to snacks all day and eat their favorite cereal at bedtime.
Kids thrive on being praise and feeling proud of themselves. So, if they eat a new food, reward them with things they like to do, just make sure don't use dessert as reward.
Breastfeeding from Day 1 (as you can).
Let the young kids explore with food, have fun while doing it.
Don’t make separate meals to cater to them. Eat together as a family.
Be persistent, consistent and patience. Routine is your best friend !