Does your child refuse to eat at mealtime or reject certain foods? It’s important to know that children’s tastes can change considerably, even from day to day. However, children should not be forced to eat foods and food should not be used as a reward. Ellyn Satter, a nutritionist specialising in the division of responsibility in feeding, believes quite the opposite, emphasizing that you must be persistent and serve a food often to children so that they can get used to it. Children should be allowed to look at food and touch it, and taste it only when they feel they are ready to do so. The most important thing is to give children the freedom to choose what they eat. She says that children need to be exposed to a food many times before they accept it.
A child’s appetite may also vary from one day to the next. This is normal since appetite is regulated by a child’s growth and children are very good at recognizing the signs of hunger. It is a good idea then, to offer children food and let them decide how much of it they want to eat. Don’t worry; children won’t let themselves starve to death. Dessert should be presented in the same way as other foods (so that sweets are not put on a pedestal), the only difference being that only one serving of dessert can be taken.
Some tricks and ideas:
- Place dishes of food in the middle of the table and act as a role model by taking a serving from each;
- Let children serve themselves without putting any pressure on them;
- Answer children’s questions in a neutral and informative manner;
- Don’t use “either … or” descriptions for food (“it’s good or it’s bad for your health”).
Being picky is normal, be persistent. It’s worth it!