NEWARK—For many families, the dinner table can become a battleground. Getting children who are picky eaters to choose healthy foods may be a challenge.
Children can become picky eaters for a number of reasons, reports Joshua Rosenblatt, MD, Chairman of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ) at Newark Beth Israel. Some children are naturally more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. Other children develop picky eating behaviors by modeling their parents eating habits.
“The goal for feeding a picky eater should be to have him or her try new foods and to keep food from becoming an area of stress and conflict,” says Dr. Rosenblatt. “Children should select from a variety of healthy foods and the family menu should not be limited to the child’s favorite foods. Some youngsters need to be offered a new food up to 15 times before they will eat it.”
The American Academy of Pediatricians and the Pediatric Health Center at CHoNJ offer these suggestions:
- Pack lots of nutrients into your meals by adding grated veggies into baked breads, muffins, pastas and soups.
- Offer the child a favorite food if he or she also eats something that isn’t well-liked.
- Even if your child refused a food once, try serving it again.
- Let children participate in preparing food so they are more anxious to eat it.
- Prepare foods in fun and interesting ways, such as cutting them into fun shapes or adding a smiley face.
- Eliminate or limit high calorie drinks. Your child may not eat the foods you provide if he or she is drinking too many calories from juice, soda or whole milk.
Having a set schedule of breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and bedtime snack helps children know that there is a meal coming every two to three hours and that they will not go hungry.
If your child refuses a meal or snack, there will be another one in a few hours and he or she should be able to wait until then. When children are hungry because they chose not to eat, they are more likely to eat what is offered next time.
The mealtime environment should be pleasant. Conversation should take place. Mealtime is not a time for watching television or arguing or texting.
Eat a variety of healthy foods yourself, providing a good example for your child.
Children from birth to 21 years benefit from pediatric and adolescent medical and surgical services provided at the Pediatric Health Center at CHoNJ, which treats 15,000 patients annually. Call for an appointment at 1-973-926-7300. For a referral to a pediatric specialist with Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, call 1-888-SBHS-123.
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