Does it help if parents/caregivers remember these urges are a normal part of development? Not really. But the good news is that the "Era of Picky Eating" is a phase and it will end. In the meantime, how can you navigate these tricky waters.
It's Not About the FoodControl issues abound in parenting and mealtimes are not exempt. Our mood, level of hunger and variety of food on the plate are different each time we sit down together. With all that variability comes the fact that if kids do not select healthy options, parents might stop offering them.
There are many reasons why good nutrition can fall by the wayside. First and foremost, our food environment is awash in empty calories and our willpower can only handle so much.
Additionally, parents may lack time, money or the education needed to make healthy choices, emotions may direct food consumption, or parents may simply be stumped, out of options or steam.
What Parents Can DoWhen it comes to your child's nutrition, what are you worried about? That your child only eats one food? Demands a treat as a reward for any task?
Stay consistent. The feedback circuits that govern when we're hungry also regulate when we get sleepy. So, if a child has an inconsistent sleep schedule, his/her eating habits can be affected as well. For example, when mealtimes are later than usual, our internal clock will respond by pushing back when we're sleepy. Conversely, shifting bed times will affect hunger. By eating at the same time every day, you can help teach young bellies when it's time to eat, as well as when it's time to sleep.
Re-evaluate dinner. To decrease stress, which can trigger food battles, think about eating earlier so a child may be better rested or plan "dinner" as a smaller meal that isn't as taxing to prepare.
Help children relate to food. Some experts suggest that when a child gets to choose between two parentally acceptable choices, the child feels more in control of the situation, leading to a smoother mealtime. Also, some children are more interested in food they've helped to grow or choose from the grocery store.
Allow children to help prepare the meal. While the gourmet-inclined parent may shudder at the wild abandon of a child in the kitchen, involving children in meal preparation is an opportunity to transmit a love of cooking and food to the next generation.
How We Can HelpUse our authority. Health care professionals can be another voice to help support your goals and reinforce good habits. For example, we might say, "You know, Sally, your mom is right when she says candy isn't a healthy food."
Educating parents about healthy choices. Educating you about what healthy foods are and how to quickly, easily, inexpensviely and deliciously preparing them may help you make better decisions about what your families eat.
Explaining how diet can affect children's bodies now and later in life. When you understand these effects, you may be more likely to supply the foods needed for optimum growth and development.
Unless It Is About the FoodEven if you don't have a picky eater in the family, your efforts to provide nourishing food can get complicated. It's easy to get confused by conflicting information on what's healthy or necessary in a daily diet and food choice can be related to religious or political beliefs, as well as hobbies, economic realities, or lifestyle. It's a lot for parents and health care professionals to take on but with 48% of children in the United States weighing in at an above normal weight, addressing childhood nutrition is everone's job.
Find out what healthy eating barriers exist in your family. Simply discovering how many servings of fruits and vewgetables family members consume per day or how often they eat outside of the home can point out places where incremental change can lead to big results.
Proper supplementation is another great option for families who need to bridge gaps in vital nutrients. A supplemental shake may be a great way to provide whole food nutrients at breakfast.
Regardless of where you are at with your family's nutrition, we can help make it easier.