Great ideas for making your child less picky about food
The festive season is just around the corner and it’s a time for happiness, parties and family activities. But any parents whose children are picky eaters have to carefully think about the party menus to make sure their kids are getting the right and balanced nutrients.
“A picky eater is commonly seen in children aged one to three years old. The seven signs of picky eaters are snacking, not chewing, eating a limited variety of food, showing little interest in food, eating very little, eating slowly and eating only the same type of food. The parents should pay more attention to their eating behaviour. Try to encourage your child to eat right and make sure he or she eats healthily to avoid unbalanced nutrition, which may affect the child’s development including intelligence, immunity and growth,” says paediatrician Dr Wimol Leewiboonsilp.
There are techniques to empower parents to cope with his/her picky eating. The parents must set good example by eating together and be a role model for them to follow. Eat healthy, well-balanced food to encourage them to try. Do not distract them with toys or other things because they will lose interest in the meal. Remove all distractions from the dining table to allow them to focus on their food.
Creativity and imagination go a long way. Decorate the dish to make it look interesting, so that children will pay more attention and want to eat. Avoid giving your child food between the scheduled times because the children will have less room for the main meals. Try to discipline the children not to eat outside the meals. Hide their less favourite things by having them pureed and mix it with their favourite menus.
Allow them to participate in the cooking process to get them interested in the food they are about to eat. Do not force your child to eat because it will make them associate eating with negative feelings. Try to encourage them positively such as by giving compliments when they eat well, or tell stories during the meal.
The home party is a great bonding activity for family and a good opportunity for parents to teach their children. The parents can ask children to share some party ideas, schedule the date to encourage planning skills, come up with the name or the theme of the party, and decorate the room. A special corner can be set aside for the children to showcase their creativity.
“The important process of the party is cooking their favourite menus. Parents can ask the children to help on simple things like rolling dough into a ball or washing the vegetables. That way, they can feel that the food is their creation and they play a part in making it. Decorating the dish to make it interesting can also attract the children to eat it. After a party, if they are not too tired, you can encourage them to help clean up to instil discipline and responsibility,” advises Sapaporn Kangvanvegchkul, the general manager of Wyeth Nutrition Business Division of Nestle (Thai).
Nipapan “Chiko” Kittipadungchai introduces seven menus that will appeal to picky eaters. She is a successful working mother of three-year-old Jao Ka, who is a picky eater. She keeps a blog online to share her creative menus to help her child eat better, and her blog has many followers.
For children who don’t chew food, Nipapan introduces a light soup with udon that is easy to eat and swallow.
“The technique of this menu is to make it colourful. The ingredients must have at least three colours like green and orange vegetables and white udon, to attract the children,” says Nipapan.
Next is ground pork steak for kids who eat a limited variety of foods. Vegetables, in the right portion, can be finely chopped and hidden inside the meat. Then comes fried rice with egg, and pork wrapped with steamed cabbage for children who eat very little. The various flavours and textures of the rice, ham, cabbage and soup will make the meal more interesting because the taste and texture change in every bite. Cutting ham in interesting shapes can also make it look more appealing.
Another lovely dish is fried rice and bird’s egg for children who show little interest in food. The birds’ eggs are bite-sized and crispy, making them easy to eat. Add creative elements to the dish by using cute toothpicks. Bite-sized food encourages children to eat the whole piece and not prod the food around the plate.
The menu of chicken with sweet brown sauce is designed for slow eaters. The tender texture and beautiful colour make it easier to eat. The chicken and vegetables must be cooked until tender. The next dish is salmon in teriyaki vegetable sauce for children who only eat the same type of food. The sauce has colourful vegetables like green peas, tomato, corn and carrot, which are rich in colour and nutrition as well. One dish gives the right nutrition. The technique is using teriyaki sauce, which tastes delicious.
“The last menu is crispy apple in red syrup for children who like eating snacks. If you can’t stop your children from eating snacks, at least make their snacks healthy. Colourful apple is a good choice,” she says.