How to Teach Healthy Eating Habits to Your Picky Eater

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Do you know a picky eater? Picky eating is when your child is selectively eating a particular food and refusing to try anything new or healthy.

If you face situations like – Your child has only a few items on their favorite list, they eat less than a bird, loves junk food, create tantrums during meal times.

Sound familiar?

Many pediatricians deal with these kinds of fuss made by children. But it is not completely under the controller of a doctor to make your child select and enjoy healthy foods. This has got more to do with childhood conditioning and the environment in your home regarding meals.

By teaching your children healthy food habits, you are setting them up to maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. The eating habits your children pick during young age become the foundation of a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.

Your family’s health care advisor evaluates your child’s weight, height and calculates your child’s BMI. Based on which you can appropriately plan the dietary needs of your kids.

The important aspects of teaching your young kids the healthy eating habits include portion control over how much sugar and salt your child consumes. Simple ways to reduce sugar and fat intake include:

  • Serving non-fat dairy products
  • Whole wheat products
  • Lean Meat
  • Pulses and leafy vegetables
  • Healthy and home-made snacks

If you are unsure about picking a healthy diet for your child, consult a nutrition expert. If your child is already suffering from poor diet habits, it is not advisable to follow some drastic measures in order to overcome the nutritional deficiency.

You can take various approaches to inculcate healthy habits in your children:

Guide Your family Choices:

Kids often end up imitating their parent’s behavior. So instead of dictating your kids eating habits, guide your whole family to choose healthy food. Make a wide variety of healthy foods available in the house. This will make sure that your child picks only healthy food items to pick. You cannot dictate a specific nutritious diet for your child while you feast on unhealthy food. Leave the unhealthy food choices like noodles, chips, soda out of reach of children. It is not possible to teach them the importance of eating healthy at a young age and hence you yourself following those practices will surely impart those habits on your child.         

Encourage Children to Eat Slowly:

A child can detect hunger when they eat slowly. Encourage your child to eat slowly and wait 10 minutes before serving them a second round of meal. This gap will help their brain to register whether their stomach is full or not. The second serving must be smaller than the first. Try to include light food products in the second serving as their stomach is almost full. Serve veggies or milk product in the second serving. Do not replace natural liquid foods with artificial foods and always try to serve milk or water with meals.    

Have At Least One Family Meal Everyday:

Try to make mealtime as pleasant as possible. A child should not dread but look forward to having dinner with family. Reserve meal time for conversations and light banter, instead of scolding or arguing. Creating a stressful environment make children dread your dinner table. They may start eating junk food in order to avoid mealtime with their parents. They may start eating fast in order to leave the table. This behavior from early childhood could make them associate eating with stress. Stress eating is one of the leading causes of obesity.  

Involve Your Children In Shopping And Meal Preparation:

This activity will help you understand your child’s food preferences. Involve your child in picking up new food items or preparing new foods. A picky child is more likely to eat food they themselves have prepared. This is a perfect opportunity to teach children about different kinds of nutrition and make them feel accomplished for consuming them. Don’t buy anything which you don’t want your child to eat. Offer new foods on the plate with dishes your child already enjoys. Seeing a new food item may overwhelm your child.

Prepare Homemade Snacks:

As your child starts getting exposed to the outside world or TV advertising, they may crave some snacks which are not appropriate for them. Also, eating snacks continuously may lead to overeating and unhealthy weight gain. You need to plan snacks at appropriate times, to maintain appetite at meal times. Prepare homemade healthy snacks which are both tasty and nutritious. Avoid cookies, chips, soda, and other processed foods. Try to prepare snacks from whole wheat grains, veggies, and other homemade products. Bribing them to eat veggies will only reinforce the idea that veggies are difficult to eat. Have healthy snacks within reach and at eye level.

Balance Your Child’s Diet Programme:

Find out about your kid’s lunch program and balance the diet according to their needs. Pack their lunch to accommodate various healthy foods. Also include fruits, whole wheat snacks or juices in their diet. Keep an eye on what your child consumes outside school and home premises. When you dine out in restaurants, choose healthier items to reinforce the idea that you always prefer healthy food items.

Switch Off Distractions:

Try to eat only in designated areas in your home, preferably in the dining hall or kitchen room. Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods. Eating in front of the TV may distract kids from the feeling of fullness and may lead to overeating.

Summary

If you are concerned that your child’s picky habits are causing a roadblock in their overall development, consult a nutrition specialist. Your child’s eating habits are not going to change overnight, you may need to constantly reinforce the idea of eating healthy food. The small steps mentioned above will surely help you inculcate some healthy eating habits in your child. Most kids like to eat small portions of several different foods rather than a larger portion of one food. Aim to offer a balanced meal by putting veggies and fruits on one half of their plate and whole grains and protein on the other.   

Author Bio: Akriti Sharma, an Expert Food writer at Samrat India, has been in this industry for the last five years. Over the years she has written for a variety of publications. She loves to write on food and recipes to help people improve their health, food and cuisine knowledge.

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