Parenting Perspective: Picky eaters

November 4, 2010

So how do you deal with a baby or toddler who has a very specific and very limited palate? In my opinion, the most important thing you can do is not give up. This can be more challenging than it sounds. It gets frustrating making new meals night after night only to see most of it end up in the garbage disposal.

Don't be discouraged! You will not be condemned to 18 years of making grilled cheeses and peanut and butter sandwiches.

According to several parenting websites and pediatricians, it is important to start offering a variety of foods early. (Of course, all the foods you do introduce should be age-appropriate). Once your toddler or soon to be toddler becomes proficient at eating "adult foods", it's a good idea to introduce new, more exotic foods slowly. For example, if your baby loves pasta, maybe add a few pieces of avocado on the side. If he or she doesn't like it right away don't count it out. Remember, it's a new texture and a new flavor. Keep offering the new food for a few days in a row. You don't have to force the food but continue to make it available and you might be surprised at how their palate develops.

The website offers some great tips on how to introduce your child to new foods. Below are some suggestions:

  • Understand that some children's palates are more sensitive than others' and they simply won't like the texture, color, or taste of some foods. That's why a child might claim to dislike a food he has never even tried. Likewise, some children may reject a food because it reminds them of a time when they were sick, or because they have some other negative association with it.
  • Look for ways to boost the nutritional value of the dishes your toddler enjoys. Add some wheat germ or diced chicken to his macaroni casserole and little chunks of fruit to his favorite cereal, for example.
  • Resist the urge to offer sugary foods in an effort to get your toddler to eat more. You want to develop his sense of culinary adventure, not his sweet tooth!
  • Minimize distractions at the table. If a sibling is running around nearby, or a cartoon beckons from across the room, your toddler may have trouble maintaining interest in the food being served. Try to make meals relaxed and quiet.
Happy eating!

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