There I was again, six years old and sitting at the kitchen table eye to eye with the roast beef that remained on my plate. Besides the boogieman, having to eat roast beef laced with veins of gooey icky fat was what I feared most in the second grade.
I was picky and lanky as a kid, which is why my parents were concerned that I wasn’t eating enough. So with good intentions, my parents set some rules to help the feeding process along. One of their “rules” was that I wasn’t allowed to leave the table or have dessert until I had eaten all of my roast beef. While this may have meant a few more bites down the ol’ hatch, it didn’t teach me to enjoy roast beef or to eat it voluntarily. Instead, I built up negative feelings towards beef in general and avoided it even more.
When it comes to feeding children, parents and kids have different responsibilities. The parent is in charge of what food is offered and when. The child is in control of what food is eaten and how much. Like my parents experienced, it can be difficult to trust that your child instinctively knows how much to eat in order to meet their needs but, most children do! In addition, prompting children to clean their plate before they can have dessert can actually promote eating too much. Fortunately, children can and do outgrow their picky eating habits. It’s the memories formed around food that make lasting impressions on food choices even throughout adulthood.
Pediatric Dietitian Ellyn Satter, teaches us that children develop healthier eating habits when they learn to eat in an environment free from pressure. In fact, children are actually more likely to accept a food if they’re exposed to it many times without any pressure to eat it. It may even take 15 roast beef dinners before your child decides to try it!
Enjoying mealtimes together in a relaxed environment fosters positive associations with foods. As a parent or caregiver, continue to enjoy and try a variety of foods yourself as it role models healthy behaviours and increases your child’s exposure, bringing them one step closer to eating and enjoying different foods.
What advice would you give to parents feeding picky eaters?
Kelby is a UBC Dietetics student, who spent time with Dietitian Services as part of her Dietetic Internship with Providence Health Care . Though she does not have children of her own, Kelby has worked as a part time nanny for most of her school life and has a huge passion for children and their development. Thanks for being a guest blogger for Healthy Families BC, Kelby!