Aviva Allen's Blog
5 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Picky Eater
As parents, we all make mistakes. Every parent loves their child and wants them to be nourished. Parents can be thoughtful and well intentioned but sometimes we interfere too much when it comes to feeding our kids. This is especially the case when dealing with a picky eater and sometimes we end up doing more harm then good. This information is intended to help you, not to place blame or make you feel any worse than you already do about your child’s eating habits. Watch out for common mistakes and learn how to implement best practices. It is never too early or too late to create a positive eating experience for the whole family.
- Offering an alternative meal:
When you prepare a meal for your child and they refuse to eat it, your instincts may tell you to find something else that they WILL eat. Parents will often go back into the kitchen and either pull out leftovers, find a quick alternative such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or prepare a completely new meal for their child in the hope that they will just eat SOMETHING. Offering your child an alternative meal teaches them that there is no need to ever eat what is being served or to try something new. They develop the expectation that you will always cater to them.
- Asking your child what they want to eat:
As parents, it is our role to decide what is being served at meals and snacks. We must ensure that meals are nutritionally balanced and small children are not capable of making these decisions. Have you ever prepared a meal that your child has requested only to have them completely refuse to eat it? Children typically do not know what they will eat until the food is sitting right in front of them. Even though the parents are responsible for planning the menu, your child will still have choices at mealtime. They will be responsible for choosing how much to eat of the food that is being offered.
- Plating your child’s food:
Placing food directly onto your child’s plate is something that many parents do. We assume that we know what they are going to eat and putting it together on their plate for them seems easier. The problem is that plating your child’s food limits their exposure to non-preferred foods and limits their opportunity to try something new. For the child, plated food can feel like PRESSURE. When you put the plate down in front of them, they interpret it as if you are saying “these are the foods that I expect you to eat and this is how much I want you to have.”
- Bribing or negotiating:
When a child feels pressured to eat, they will usually end up eating less, not more. It should always be the child’s responsibility to decide which foods to eat and how much, from what is being offered to them. Although you may feel that your child should be eating more, when we pressure them to eat a specific food or quantity, we are teaching them to override their body’s internal cues. You may be conditioning them to eat everything on their plate, even when they are already full. It is important that we allow children to listen to their bodies and learn how to self-regulate when it comes to their eating.
- Feeding your child the same foods everyday:
This can be tricky when you have a very picky eater on your hands. How can you offer variety when you child only eats 10 foods? If a child eats the same food everyday, prepared in the same way, (and in many cases, multiple times per day), you run the risk of them burning out on those foods. One day they may simply refuse to eat it any longer. Seek professional help BEFORE this happens. Children will often go through phases with the foods they eat but it is important to ensure that your child is adding more foods than they are losing.
Support for Parents and their Picky Eaters
If mealtime is a constant battle and you are struggling with your child’s eating, I invite you to contact me for helpful strategies that are tailored to suit the needs of your child and your family.
My approach is parent centred, which means I work with parents to support both the child AND the parents and ensure a healthy feeding relationship.
For your convenience, I offer consultations via phone or Skype as well as in person at my midtown Toronto office. Click here for more information about my services or to book an appointment.