Preventing Picky Eaters
“I don’t like that.” “I don’t want it.” “No!” “Yuck.”
If mealtimes at your house include those phrases, you might have a picky eater on your hands. Picky eating is common in young children, as they are learning what they like and what in their world they can control. Unfortunately, some picky-eating kids carry the habit and attitude toward new foods into adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has said that picky eaters should get more attention from pediatricians. Consequences of picky eating can cause worry for parents and caregivers about kids not getting needed nutrition, leading to possible health-related problems.
“Typically, though, it will get better,” says Henry Ford pediatrician Bridget McArdle, D.O., who advises parents not to stress over their child’s food intake on a single day. “Look at what your child eats, not just over the course of a day, but over the course of a week. As long as you continue to provide healthy options to them, it pretty much evens out.” She says that there is no real cause for alarm as long as children continue to grow and gain weight.
Introducing New Foods to Babies & Toddlers
Developing your child’s palate and encouraging their willingness to try new foods starts early — when you first start introducing your baby to solid food. It’s important to introduce a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables and fruits. Dr. McArdle says solid foods should be introduced to babies at around 6 months.
“Some parents want to start sooner,” she notes. “If your child is eager to eat, sitting up, and reaching for foods, it’s OK to start a little earlier.”
She advises parents and caregivers to introduce one new food at a time, in order to gauge the child’s reaction. “Typically, try one new food every three days,” she says. This allows parents the chance to watch for allergic reactions or food intolerance. If none appear, feel free to keep feeding the child that food and continue to include it into the child’s regular diet. Over time, the child will have an array of safe, healthy foods to eat for meals and snacks.
According to the AAP, sometimes it takes a baby 10-15 tries over a period of time before accepting a new food. Dr. McArdle adds, “Continue to offer foods multiple times. You never know. On the eleventh time, they might like it.” At the very least, they may be used to the food and start to willingly eat it.
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Making a game of foods, like the time honored “airplane” or “choo-choo train,” can help with little ones. One strategy Dr. McArdle uses when her own older children refuse foods they have never tasted is the “no, thank you” bite. Children are encouraged to try one bite before saying “no, thank you” to the rest.
Another approach is to try serving foods different ways. For example, if you are trying to get your child to consume carrots, offer them slivered, waffle cut or shredded, raw or cooked, and with different dips or seasoning.
See your child’s doctor if you worry that your child’s growth and development is not normal. Keeping a food log can also help your child’s doctor determine any serious problems.
To find a doctor or pediatrician at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com/findadoc or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Bridget McArdle is a board-certified pediatrician who sees children at Henry Ford Medical Center – Sterling Heights.