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“Picky” Eaters

Por Ana C. López, Nutrition Counselor, MyDiet™ -
“Picky” Eaters

Meal times may become a “horror movie” when you have to struggle with kids who refuse to eat. However, if you know how to handle this situation, you can help your kids enjoy all their foods and become more open to change.

Neophobia—the fear of trying new foods—is a very common condition, especially during the introduction of new foods, but especially during the 2nd and 3rd years of age.

It is believed that thousands of years ago, when the risk of food poisoning was very high, neophobia was a defense mechanism. But today, this situation can lead to a deficient, poor diet if not adequately managed. Moreover, a monotonous diet lacks many essential nutrients for children’s growth and development. The foods that are generally rejected are fruits and vegetables, which happen to be the richest in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Keep in mind that youare your child’s role- model. If he/she sees that you are trying different foods, he/she will be likely to try them as well. If you child senses you are resistant to eating a certain food, it is less likely he/she will want to try it. Because it takes many kids 10 exposures or more to a new food to get used to and like it, you should provide repeated opportunities for your child to try them.  If your child refuses to eat a specific food, don’t force him/her, but try again on another occasion! The secret is to change the preparation of the food and try again. It is better if you offer the food again a few days later, and not the very next day, so your child doesn’t have a recent memory of it. You will often have a better response by just changing the way it is cooked.

The variety of foods offered at home is key to broadening your child's taste preferences. If kids are offered the same foods every day, it is more likely they will reject any changes. A child's diet should include variety to assure the consumption of all nutrients.

The appearance of meals is also very important because the first exposure to a food is seeing it. Use your imagination to combine  colorsand shapes, in order to make food more appealing. Don’t forget to check the temperature as well, because getting burned with the first mouthful, can cause rejection from a child.  

Finally, remember: “persevere and accomplish.” This requires patience and love, because it is much easier to give up after the second or third try. However, establishing  healthy eating habitsis worth the effort.

 

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