When it comes to picky eater, most parents have been told, “when they’re hungry, they’ll eat”. But there are a few really, really, really stubborn children that hunger does not bother them, and that “your food” is so disgusting that they rather starve themselves than to eat your food.
If you know what I mean, keep reading.
I have experience with picky eaters, not just from a professional point of view, but from my personal motherly point of view.
My daughter has always been a picky eater from the get go. She was nursed exclusively for the first year by her stubborn refusal of anything, including expressed breastmilk, from a bottle. I returned to my full-time work 6 weeks after giving birth. The whole time I was at work, she refuses all food and breastmilk from bottle. She rather starve than to eat anything else. She’d wait till I got home from work and she’ll nurse.
I finally forced her to wean at 18 months because she is failing to thrive. She does not want food and does not want anything to do with a bottle, cup, sip cup, what so ever.
I used to try all kinds of tricks just to get some calories in her, oil or formula powder mixed with her food, mini m&m’s mixed with rice. Nothing works. I would try to feed her. But the moment I touched her spoon, she’d throw a fit and meal time is over.
Then when she gets a little older, she discovered noodles. She’d eat that 3 meals a day every day if I let her. I usually add flaxseed oil in the noodles for some extra calories and omega-3. One time instead of flaxseed oil, I used olive oil.
Boy…that girl has laser sharp taste bud. She took one bite of the noodles and stopped and asked in her little angry voice, “what did you do to my noodles?”.
Feeding this child has always been a struggle. Every meal was a fight with yelling, shouting and crying.
The epiphany came one when I threw in the towel. I was too tired to keep fighting with her with no end in sight. I let her eat whatever she wants even if it’s not the most nutritious food. I grinched, but whatever.
From then on, she started eating no just the junk she likes, but also trying new foods. Let’s just be clear. Her pickiness is not completely resolved. Today, at 17, she’s still very picky. But at least she’s eating I’m not complaining.
She also learned to cook because she doesn’t like my cooking 90% of the time. There are only a handful of things I make that she’ll eat.
Eating is a Sensory Experience
Eating involves all 5 sense – how the food look, how it smell, how it feels, how it tastes, and how it sounds.
Think of the most disgusting things that someone ask you to eat. Think poop. Do you want to look at it? Do you want to touch it? Do you want to smell it?
That’s how your child think of the food you want him/her to try. I know you’re not feeding your child poison, but that’s what’s going on in your child head. He/She has already made a decision about that food.
Your job as the parent is to change his/her thought about eating or that particular food. Kids would do anything when it’s fun, so your job is to make eating fun. Hopefully, he/she will start associating eating with fun memories and slowly forget about the old rules.
As adult, when we try a new food, we mean taking a bite, chewing and swallowing the food even it is taste bad. In some occasions, you may spit it out if it’s really gross.
I just have some salad that did not taste all that great, but I chewed and tasted it, and finally swallow it despite the bad taste.
In children, you have to change your expectation. The definition of trying may mean really just an attempt, such as touching the food, smelling it, kissing, licking, or if your child took a bit and spit it out. That’s fine too.
Applaud at each attempt to try something new.
It’s totally okay for your child to reject the food initially. It’s just that the sight, the taste, the texture are unfamiliar.
It’s also okay if your child coughs, chokes or gags with new food. Stay calm as long as your child is not turning blue. Your panicking can alarm your child and they may think something is wrong with them.
Every child is different. That’s why you have children who are picky and some are not. Some find more enjoyment in eating than others.
Make Eating a Fun Activity
To most children, eating is just another activity, just like drawing, watching TV, reading, dancing, etc. For them, they are not getting as much enjoyment out of eating than, say, riding a bike. So eating is just not a priority. They want something more stimulating.
You can turn eating into an activity by getting your child involve in the shopping, meal planning and preparation. Give them age-appropriate task to help. Let them get hands-on with food, such as taking food out from refrigerator, mixing sauces or salads, cut fruits and veg with plastic knives, etc.
True story…one day my daughter ask to bring a jar of Nutella to school. Curious, I asked why because she does not eat Nutella. She told me that she and her friends were each bringing something from home and mixing all the food together into a concoction and eat it.
When I picked her up from school that day, she gave me a run down of the food on their list. As she went through the list, I couldn’t stop thinking why she would eat that “disgusting” mix than food that I meticulously prepared for her. Then it dawned on me…it’s because it is FUN.
My daughter is still very picky to this day, which forces her to be more involved in meal planning so she can make her own food when she doesn’t like what I make. Again, I don’t want to fight. I just want to enjoy a pleasant meal everyday.
The saving grace is that my daughter loves fruits and vegetables. She doesn’t eat all them, but she has enough variety. So I’m happy.
Give up your control, drop your expectations and let them be. Eating should be enjoyable for the whole family.
Other Reasons Why Your Child is a Picky Eater?
When Should You Be Concern?
- Your child’s pickiness with food is affecting his/her growth.
- His/her food choices continues to decrease with absolute no luck with new foods.
- Your child have significant sensory issues, such as not transitioning to table food by 12 months of age, eats on dry foods or only pureed.
- Your child coughs, chokes or gags when eating or drinking.