QUESTION FROM THE READER: As a parent, I struggle with how to deal with a picky eater who only wants carbs and very little protein. For example, she had a waffle, a small amount of yogurt yesterday, two bites of a turkey pita, some sliced apple, one chicken nugget, nearly an entire small French fry, and a cookie. I just don’t think it’s balanced, but when I try to restrict the foods she will eat to get her to eat protein, she refuses. How should I proceed?
I advise you to relax and stop obsessing over what your child eats. If your child is developing normally, you don’t need to worry about their diet, as it will be sufficient to ensure their continued growth and health.
My advice to picky eater parents is to stop fighting over food. Allow your children to eat whatever they want while providing a wide variety of mostly healthy foods. It is important to offer many options and get them to try various foods, but don’t make it a major battle. Small children have very little control over their lives; one area in which they do have control is what they put in their bodies.
There have been studies on picky children, and it has been demonstrated that children will add a new food to their repertoire after tasting it approximately 20 times. That means if you want them to start eating a vegetable they currently refuse to eat, you must get them to try it 20 times. By then, it will have become one of the foods they are willing to eat.
If your child refuses to eat at a meal, do not allow them to have snacks before the next meal. Allow them to become hungry. A child can go for many days without eating as long as they are drinking, so don’t be concerned if they miss a meal. The worst thing you can do is allow them to walk around the house snacking because you’re sorry they didn’t eat a meal. They decided not to eat and must learn that the result is hunger.
I’ve seen many people worry incessantly about a picky child, only to see that child grow up to be tall, strong, smart, and healthy. Don’t be concerned. Relaxing about the amount and type of food your child consumes will benefit both of you.
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