Do you have a toddler or young child who suddenly decided they hated every food but spaghetti? Do you wonder where that child who would eat anything placed in front of them went? Well, that child is merely growing, and the picky eating phase has begun. This is normal, even if it annoys you, and your job at this point is to just make sure your kid eats and gets some type of nutrition. The picky-eating years can be tough, but you can gently coax your child into eating more diverse types of food as time goes on.
Picky Eating Can Start Suddenly
It is completely normal for picky eating to start suddenly. One day, your kid likes cream cheese; the next, she looks distraught as you spread some on the bread she wants to eat. It may involve just one food or a lot of different ones. Unfortunately, this phase varies greatly between children, so just watch what develops, and try to find nutritious foods that your child will still eat.
Check for Food Allergies and Intolerances
If the child's reaction seems to be one that is more of fear or upset than of simple disgust, you may want to have a test done for food allergies and intolerances. The child might not be able to put into words what's really happening, so they rely on a reaction that shows they really don't want to eat the food because it makes them feel bad. Keep in mind your child can become allergic to any food, so don't assume that because the food in question isn't a typical allergen there can't be an allergic reaction.
Don't Force Them To Clean Their Plate
When you do find foods they can eat, keep the serving sizes reasonable for their age. Don't force them to clean their plate if you've given them a lot of food, especially if it's food that they tolerate but do not really like. Forcing them to clean their plate when they say they're full will just create a bad association in their mind with that food. Leftovers are a thing; just put their food in storage containers and try to give it to them at the next meal.
It's Okay To Make a Deal – But Uphold Your End of the Agreement
Some parents resort to bribing kids, giving them dessert if they eat their vegetables, and so on. That's okay, but make it simple, and hold up your end of the agreement. For example, "If you want dessert, you have to eat these carrots" – said calmly and not as if this were a big deal. If the child does not eat the carrots, then don't give them dessert; if they do eat the carrots, be sure to give them dessert. Don't make mealtimes a time of uncertainty for them.
Rotate different food choices and work in new foods. Don't worry if it takes time, and remember that there are some foods that your child will just end up not liking ever. If you feel that picky eating is going on for too long or have other questions about child development, your doctor can help you sort the normal from the not-so-normal.