Is Your Child A Picky Eater?
Likes and dislikes are normal. From around two years of age food fads are common. It’s more unusual to have a child who doesn’t go through any food fads at all.
Even young palates get jaded so your toddler is more likely to go off dishes that are served very often. Try to provide a variety of foods. This is important for his development socially and it also helps prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Iron deficiency affects nearly a quarter of all two year olds in the UK. Occasionally young children refuse almost everything electing to live on an amazingly restricted menu of their own choosing. It’s obviously healthier to eat more varied fare but even so some youngsters manage to thrive on an amazingly limited choice of foods like bread and ketchup.
Most food fads last only a few weeks if that so be patient. Serve him his favourite foods along with a small portion of something different. It may take a while before he deigns to try it so keep calm. Try to eat meals as a family. This will provide a good example for him to follow.
Be sure to praise your toddler for what he does eat. Scolding is a form of attention albeit a negative one so try to avoid it. It’s best not to threaten or bribe your toddler into eating. Neither ploy works and you could end up feeling silly. Do nothing special other than provide good food and cut down on between-meal snacks. As long as your toddler isn’t ill he’ll eat when he’s hungry. Try to keep emotions out of mealtimes. Neither youngsters nor grown-ups can eat when they’re upset or angry.
Towards the age of three many toddlers are enamoured of junk food and snacks (and some children start their love affair with junk food long before this). There’s nothing very wrong with occasionally eating food that’s less nourishing. However as it tends to be high to be high in salt and other additives and low in fibre and complex carbohydrates it’s a poor way of eating long-term so you won’t want your child to make a habit of it.
Try to interest your child in “real” food by making it look more appetizing. Hundreds and thousands sprinkled onto a sliced pear for instance may entice him to eat it. Your child may enjoy making his own food. From the age of two or so he can proudly help create sandwiches or pizza and this may spur him to eat the results. Provide wholesome snacks like celery sticks bits of fruit or cubes of cheese. Again he can help prepare some of these. From two and a half he could try putting together chunks of cheese and pineapple onto toothpicks. It is wise to note the danger of sharp objects like toothpicks, to very young children.
Eat with him and serve at least one thing per meal that you know he likes. Get him to help lay the table. He can do this without breaking plates from around two and a half onwards and it will make the meal special for him. Provide more grown-up crockery and cutlery for him.
Fat and fibre
Fat is essential for a growing body so in general low-fat foods aren’t good for babies and toddlers. That’s one reason why full-fat milk is usually best for young children. However from age two onwards a toddler can have semi-skimmed milk. At this age your toddler should be having around 400ml (2/3 pint) a day of it in some form or other. High-fibre foods are good for adults but can be too much for a young child.
At two years old his stomach is still small and high-fibre foods fill him up too easily without providing much energy. Some high-fibre foods especially unprocessed bran can reduce the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron. A toddler can also develop diarrhoea if you feed him lots of whole grains, pulses and high foods high in roughage. He should of course have some fibre if for no other reason than to avoid constipation but above all he needs a good mix of foods and a healthy attitude to eating.