Picky Eaters: Tips for Tackling and Myths Debunked (page 2)

Picky Eaters: Tips for Tackling and Myths Debunked

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Updated on Aug 8, 2013

"Rewarding your child for eating will only backfire."

Status: Partial Truth. To some degree, this is true. Dr. Garden-Robinson specifically points out the negative aspects of using food as a reward. “We already are born with a natural liking for sweet foods, so children do not need the extra encouragement to eat desserts,” she says. “In fact, eating could become a power struggle with escalating rewards. ‘Do you want me to eat that broccoli? I will eat it if I get dessert all day tomorrow.’” Natenshon, on the other hand, believes that rewards can be fine, assuming that the child is capable of actually succeeding. If a child is incapable of eating a food that tastes metallic to her, for example, refusing to give the child a reward every single time is punishing the child without resolving the problem.  

"If your child is really hungry, he will eat."

Status: Myth. Many pediatricians suggest that parents refuse to offer alternative foods to children, a suggestion that Natenshon rails against. Imagine if someone told you that the only food available for dinner was dog food, and you could either eat the dog food or starve. Understanding that many picky eaters actually detest the taste of certain foods can change your attitude from confrontational to understanding.  

"You can keep your children healthy by sneaking pureed vegetables into their food."

Status: Uncertain. Some best-selling books have publicized this approach, but some nutritionists disapprove. “Sneaking food into your child’s diet could backfire and result in them not trusting you in other realms of your relationship,” Dr. Garden-Robinson explains. Natenshon points out a different problem with this approach, which is that it just won’t work for many picky eaters. If the child has a sensory problem or a special taste deficiency, you won’t be able to get away with simply grinding up the food. No matter how much you try to cover up the taste, it will still be there.  

"There are treatment options that can help picky eaters."

Status: Truth. Here are some techniques that you can use to help your picky eater become slightly less picky.

  • Be a good role model. Eat your vegetables, and show your child that you are willing to try new foods.
  • Invite over friends who enjoy a variety of foods. Sometimes peer pressure will encourage your child to taste a new food.
  • Take it slowly. When introducing a new food, try to pair it with a food that your child enjoys. Serve only a small amount of the new food to avoid overwhelming your child.
  • Make eating new foods fun! Cut your child’s vegetables in interesting shapes or let your child dip them into a healthy dressing.
  • Create a garden, and let your children help to grow the foods that you would like them to eat.

Offer food up to a dozen times before giving up. Over time, the food may become more “familiar,” spurring the child to try it. If you’ve tried these basic techniques and feel that you’re dealing with a strong biological or sensory issue, you can try one of the following ideas:

  • Try behavioral therapy, which uses desensitization or food chaining.
  • Look into the Feldenkrais and Anatbaniel methods, both of which provide pleasurable play experiences for children that can help the brain and body become better organized.
  • Consult with speech and occupational therapists who understand how to change neurology.
  • Give your child a multivitamin and/or a health drink that includes the vitamins and minerals that your child needs in order to thrive.  

No matter what your picky eater is picky about, there are simple steps you can take to help de-wrinkle that scrunch face, and get your kid eating delicious and nutritious meals that you're both happy about.

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