My 3 year old is a picky eater…

My 3 year old is a very picky eater. She does not want to eat anything but raisin toast, peanut butter or nutella sandwiches, or pizza. Will she outgrow this? How do I get her to try new foods. Every time I suggest that she eat something different, she actually looks frightened, she whines about it, and sometimes even starts to cry. What should I do?

Few things can trigger a Mom’s anxiety more than a child who will not eat. Yet one of the most important things we can do for our little ones is feed them a healthy varied diet. The tough part is, it doesn’t take long for little ones to figure out that eating or not eating is a big trigger for parents, and one of the few ways they can control their world.

Respect his independence around wanting to feed himself and try backing away a bit. It is so hard when they will only eat the same foods, I was sure my son was going to turn into a chicken nugget. Try not to sit in front of him with your eyes wide open and your fingers crossed, this puts too much pressure on your child and gives them too much control. Begging, pleading or promising a reward for eating can promote some bad habits. Getting angry or withholding your love or approval for not eating is also not a helpful and can be damaging. Continue to give your child a variety of foods to try but make sure you look relaxed and calm. Getting into battles over food can cause kids to associate fighting, arguing, or pleasing Mom and Dad with eating and food choices.

Try to be neutral way, comment if he tries something new – but don’t have a parade and call the Grandparents! Over reacting can cause kids to back away because they are afraid to disappoint their parents in the future.

Try making tasting food a pleasant but not emotionally loaded experience: pick a food to try yourself that you haven’t before and model that for your child. See if they will put food on their tongue and leave it there while you count to 10, then they can spit it out. The next day have him try the same food but chew it before he spits it out. Kids need to be introduced to new foods several times before they acquire a taste for it, especially kids who have sensory issues around not just taste but food texture. You can also sneak vegetables or other healthy foods into those pancakes he loves so much, starting with small amounts, then increasing them.

Many kids are like this in the early years, sometimes even up to 7 or 8 years old. Invest in some great vitamins and a whole lot of patience. Make sure to consult your pediatrician if you are really worried about nutrition or extreme food refusal.

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