By: Ryan Elnar
Parents often wonder what makes kids become a picky eater.
During his first year, Gavin ate almost anything you put in his mouth. I would say he had an excellent diet back then.
Aside from milk, he ate all sorts of mashed vegetables. Squash, potato, chayote, carrots, and all other veggies my mother-in-law can think of that can be steamed and mashed for him to eat. We were lucky and thankful that we had her to do that.
Feeding him was like peace on earth until his second year. One might say that he was not really a picky eater but feeding him started to take hours to finish unlike before. Perhaps, one reason is that his taste buds were introduced to different food varieties. Aside from home-cooked meals, he had already tried all sorts of cuisines, and even junk foods which may have developed his preference for food.
Some cases may be even worse, which makes it worrisome for parents as a child’s nutrition is at stake. While experts point to several factors that could contribute to turning a toddler or kid into a picky eater, here are some things a parent can do to help his child:
Set an example. If you ask him to eat his veggies, you better eat yours too! It’s true that oftentimes, kids do follow more of your actions than what you ask of them. It also goes without saying that if junk foods are bad, don’t eat it with them or better yet, remove this from your grocery list.
Have a meal plan for the week. Unfortunately, many Filipino couples nowadays are guilty of missing out on family dinner. Counting the hours spent on Metro Manila traffic, it makes it virtually impossible for both mom and dad to be present during the most important meal of the day.
To ensure that his daily nutrition will be met, make a weekly meal plan that your household helper can follow. You can do variations like having meat or fish for lunch while vegetables for dinner.
Typical Filipino recipes like mechado, afritada, or even adobo let you introduce small amounts of veggies into his meal like carrots and potatoes.
Of course, it’s still best if you could join him for dinner on most days of the week.
Choose what they watch. We never had cable subscription until we had our son. This means about 70% of the time that we watch TV together, is spent watching Disney Junior. While I discourage spending too much time on TV, shows on kids’ channels can not only teach them the alphabet, math, or good manners but also about what is good for them to eat.
I would always refer to those Adventures in Nutrition with Captain Carlos whenever Gavin refuses to eat tomatoes or bell peppers that are included on the day’s viands. But of course, turn off all TVs and tablets during meal times. Also, consider installing YouTube Kids instead of the regular YouTube app on your tablet.
Let them cook. Or at least let them choose and help prepare the meal. If you let kids be part of the process, they will most likely eat what they helped create. Your picky eater can either wash, sort or even mix the day’s veggies dish.
Whenever we have the chance, we let Gavin help and play the role of a master chef. It works like a charm as it also becomes an enjoyable experience for him.
Make it fun. Eating with the family is an experience and not a chore. Most of the time, parents do the latter and to be honest, I am guilty of it. Sometimes, you feel like you just want to get it over with so you can do the next chore.
Family meal is supposed to be a time for you to catch up with your kids, ask them how their day was, and to simply enjoy the food.
Try not to over control and allow your kids to choose what they want and how much they want to eat, within set limits. Allowing them to control their intake will give them confidence in decision making. Consider also that they may have had a heavy afternoon snack.
When doing your groceries, allow them to choose what they want to bring for baon/snack to school. Sometimes, they will choose a cupcake because it’s packed in their favorite color or because a classmate eats the same. Just let them be and see to it that they stand for the decision they made.
Each case will always be unique so there will never be a direct approach or one solution on how to deal with picky eaters. While it is normal for us parents to feel frustrated, it’s important that we continue to look for ways to address the situation and seek help from experts and fellow parents as well.
If you’ve been in a similar situation, feel free to share what worked for you and your kids in the comments section below.
Ryan Elnar is a proud Filipino daddy blogger. He started Dad and More to share the stories of his journey in raising a family. Ryan believes that beyond formal education, discipline and values are far more important heritage a parent can give to his children.