What do you do when your child refuses to eat?

It can be challenging when your child is a picky eater. Being fussy about food, your kid can miss out on important vitamins and nutrients they need to continue growing properly. 

Though it’s considered normal for kids to be choosy eaters, giving them the right diet, alongside their trusted multivitamins, is essential to ensure that they develop continuously and consistently throughout their childhood and into adolescence. 

If your child is a picky eater and you have trouble convincing them to eat during meal times, here are some tips on how to handle it: 

1. “I’m not hungry.”
It’s common to hear this, especially when your child doesn’t have much of an appetite on any given day. Sometimes, it does turn out to be true, primarily if they snack too often.

Establishing a firm and regular meal time schedule will significantly help, as well as allocating specific times in the morning and afternoon for snacks. Make sure they stick to this schedule and avoid deviating from it so that they don’t ruin their appetite when it comes to their heavier meals.   

2. “It tastes bad!”
Kids tend to stick to food that are appealing and familiar to them, and these are typically sweets and snacks. Thus, they avoid or refuse to eat vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Instead of completely taking these off the menu, try cooking and serving it in a different way. For example, vegetables can be made into soup. Fruits can be used in making desserts like whole wheat fruit cake or homemade jello. Oatmeal can be dressed up with peanut butter and cornflakes. Preparing food they think are “icky” in another way or complementing them with food they do like can help change their perspective. 

However, avoid preparing special meals for your child on their command or whim. This will teach them that if they ask for it, they’ll most likely get it, which is not what should be fostered.

3. Make sure you’re in a distraction-free zone.
In this day and age, kids are exposed to digital media and devices at a younger age than in the past. At times, these can become distractions, alongside other things like the television, toys, and even their siblings when they get rowdy. Turn off your TVs and gently take away their phones during meal times, then guide them towards focusing their attention on the food.

4. Be a role model.
Everyone has favorite foods and food they dislike. Do your best to avoid showing disinterest or distaste when eating things you don’t like or new food you have just tried. Be it through facial expressions, body language, or verbal evocation, kids may pick up on these cues and follow them. They most likely will be less willing to try something or eat certain foods if they’ve seen you give an averse reaction to it. This may even go beyond food you personally don’t like and manifest in your children treating food this way in general.

5. “No!”

Your child may want to practice control or assert their independence. At times, this can be the most frustrating thing to hear, because it presents a lack of reasoning. In these situations, remember to keep your cool.  Turning meal times into power struggles will only result in unpleasant memories and pushing your kid further away from eating well. Respect your child’s appetite, and avoid bribing them. It’s important to understand why they are reacting this way, and this can be done with open communication.

Source: Healthychildren.org, mayoclinic.org, kidshealth.org