Dietary preferences in childhood may have had evolutionary benefits in reducing the risk of consuming toxins, but in the modern world these behaviors may constitute a barrier to increasing variety in the diet, and this lack of variety may lead to lack of some nutrients in the diet of some children and make your kids picky eaters.
We have chosen a simple definition to help them understand this type of behavior in children and it is about Restricted intake of food, especially of vegetables, and strong food preferences, leading parents to provide a different meal from the rest of the family
Toddler taste development
The sense of taste begins to develop in the uterus, around 9 weeks of pregnancy since at this point its mouth, tongue and first taste buds have formed.
The flavors of the food consumed by the mother pass to the baby through the bloodstream and the amniotic fluid, since the baby naturally breathes and swallows this liquid, which in turn helps the development of their lungs and digestive system.
As your baby tests the amniotic fluid, he gets his first taste and taste experience.
Your baby’s sense of taste is good at birth, but his reactions to different tastes increase as he grows. Let’s see a brief tour of each of the stages:
– The sense of taste is very sensitive.
– The distribution of taste buds is wider so they can be found in the tonsils, in the back of the throat and in the tongue.
– Can distinguish sweet and bitter flavors, but prefer sweet flavors, such as breast milk.
From 3 months to 6 months:
– Your baby’s tongue has grown.
– They use their mouth and tongue through contact to try to make sense of different textures and tastes.
– Reacts more to salty flavors. However, it is not a good idea to give your baby salty foods at this stage.
– The little experimentation in this stage can condition the little acceptance of new foods.
– Ideal period for the exploration of solid textures.
– It is natural for your baby to suspect the taste of the food at first, after being used to the sweet taste of the milk.
– You will probably discover that your baby loves to try new foods immediately.
– You are likely to refuse certain foods. Experts suggest offering a new food at least eleven times before deciding that your baby does not like it.
– Between 7 and 8 months is a good opportunity to try new flavors and explore different textures with a variety of soft fruits or vegetables.
– They develop preferences when combining meals, especially in relation to flavor and texture
– They recognize food by its appearance.
– Rejection or acceptance of some foods may begin
– Meals are identified as “Known” and “Unknown”, which is why it is important to expose them to various soon as they turn 6 months since “Unknown” foods are rejected.
Your baby could be entered into a new phase of eating called as ‘Neophobic response’.
The neophobic response is the rejection of a food based on perceptual maladjustment.
The food is rejected in plain sight. Small changes in the appearance of a known food will result in rejection. As children become wider and their sets of categories are more inclusive less food will be rejected.
It is very important to be aware of this phase of eating in order to be able to handle it well. In this phase, your child will prefer eating food which looks right.
Your baby already has set preferences or likings towards the food now. They are also able to form quite sophisticated categories of foods and non-foods, of foods they like and foods they don’t like, of things that are disgusting and things that are okay. So take note:
- I could stop eating what he used to earlier.
- It is very normal for this phase but don’t worry it goes by pretty quickly.
- They usually will prefer food already tasted over a new food though.
Little by little, they will learn to accept them and that is something absolutely natural, therefore it is possible that they need a little encouragement.
Children overcome the neophobic stage due to:
– Imitation of other behaviors
– They develop broader categories of food and less emphasis on the specific characteristics of food.
– Constant exposure to new foods.
Food preferences for picky eaters
Mothers influence children through their own preferences, which may limit the foods offered to children.
Complementary feeding studies identify early exposure to vegetable flavor as an important strategy during the weaning stage (around 6 months) to encourage acceptance and avoid to have picky eaters in the future
It is said that the so-called “repeated exposure to taste strategy” in which children are offered the same foods frequently is the most effective way to promote the intake of unknown vegetables in children. Parents often do not achieve the required number of exposures because they interpret their child’s facial expression as a genuine dislike and are not willing to continue offering the same food
Kids often reject vegetables because of their appearance or visual texture, so incorporating visual exposure, such as picture books and tactile play activities, may particularly benefit these children more than exposure to only taste.
In the same way, another way to expand your child’s preferences are sensory activities with foods that include listening, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting. These learning strategies can be incorporated during regular meals or outside the context of meals, for example, during cooking sessions, gardening and nutrition education.
You can try Taste for Life is an intervention based on sensory learning that was developed to help day care centers encourage young children to eat healthily.
Don’t Give Up your picky eater! Try different foods.
It is normal for children to be fussy about new foods, it doens’t make them picky eaters. Some research shows that it takes at least 11 attempts for a child to decide that he likes a new food. So keep serving that food that you do not like, like broccoli, peas, fish. Let your child touch or play with him and always remember, always ask him to take at least one bite.
It is more important that children eat until they are full and not until they finish each bite on their plate. The pressure to eat is the reason of many eating disorders. Young children have small stomach, so a good rule to remember is: a spoonful of food per age, for each plate and a full meal should have at least 2 or 3 plates. So a 2-year-old child should receive 2 tablespoons of peas, noodles and chicken, if that were the case. You can try our 12 healthy snack ideas easy and healthy snacks for the whole family.
What Specialists say about picky eaters
If you read this article and your wish is to avoid as much as possible that your child becomes a picky eater, take into account that picky eating has been shown to be associated with a reduced duration of breastfeeding and early introduction of complementary foods. Some studies have found a positive association between breastfeeding for less than 6 months and picky eating in 7-year-old girls, other investigations found that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and the introduction of complementary foods after 6 months of age reduced the odds of picky eating in early childhood.
On the other hand, if your case is that your son has signs of being a picky eater, there are some recommendations that Mayo Clinic brings us a series of recommendations that could significantly help change your picky eaters habits:
Respect your child’s appetite, which is why it is recommended:
– Do not force a meal or snack.
– Do not bribe your child to eat certain foods.
– Do not force him to clean his plate.
The consequences of this type of actions are:
– Could strengthen the power struggle over food.
– I could associate the mealtime with anxiety and frustration
– Could be less sensitive to their own signs of hunger and fullness.
Follow a logical routine, this means:
– Serve meals and snacks at approximately the same time every day.
– If your child chooses not to eat a meal, offer replacement food.
– Serve small portions and give them the opportunity to order more independently.
Remember that you are not an a la carte chef, therefore:
– Do not prepare meals separately for your child as this may promote a delicate diet.
Always, always teach by example. If you usually eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow your example.
It minimizes the distractions at the time of the meal, therefore:
– Turn off the television and other electronic devices during meals.
– Do not offer dessert as a reward.
In this case, we recommend:
– Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him the opportunity to ask for more independently.
– Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods. Continue to serve your child healthy options until he becomes familiar and prefers them
– Encourage your child to stay at the table at the designated meal time, even if he does not eat.
– You can select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and omit the dessert the rest of the week, or redefine the dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy options.
If you are concerned about your child’s diet, consult your doctor. He or she will be responsible for plotting your child’s growth on a growth chart and comparing it to normal standards.
If this is the case, record the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days, this can help your child’s doctor determine any problems.
Use your Creativity
If your goal is to expand the range of possibilities when it comes to nurturing your child, then you must be intentionally creative, this means that you must bring to the culinary creativity elements such as color, shape, aromas, play and even fun. So here we leave some creative tips that will serve to make your picky eater a wide diner.
Serve the least favorite vegetables with the sauce or your child’s favorite ingredient.
Cut food in several ways with cookie cutters and use a variety of brightly colored foods. Young children are especially open to trying foods arranged in a striking and creative way.
Offer breakfast foods for dinner. .
Recruit your child’s help by asking your child to help you select fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. At home, encourage your child to help wash the vegetables, knead or set the table.
Do not buy anything that you do not want your child to eat. This becomes a distraction and we said, ZERO DISTRACTIONS
Cut solid foods into small pieces so they can be eaten easily. Young children tend to enjoy eat by themselves let them eat without help using their hands can make a little mess but will help them to be more independant in the future.
Take out the chef that is in your child since some cooking tasks are perfect for young children like sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh herbs from the garden, “painting” kitchen oil with a pastry brush, among others.
Now, once your child accepts food, use the “food bridges” so recommended by nutritionists. This is about presenting other foods with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand the variety of foods your child eats. For example, if your child likes pumpkin puree, make the same recipe by replacing it with sweet potatoes or carrots.
Talk to your pediatrician
If your child is not eating at all…..
There are some obvious signs that your child may not be eating properly or enough and many of them are quite obvious:
– It’s not gaining weight or growing.
– Refuses to eat or drink
– Spit or vomit a lot
– Cry or complain, or arch your back when feeding
– Has trouble breathing while eating or drinking
– You have trouble chewing or coughing or choking during meals.
– Has a gurgling or hoarse or hoarse voice during or after meals
– He’s only eating 5 to 10 different foods
When should you see a doctor about eating problems?
– He watches him lethargic.
It could be a sign that you have little iron or even anemia. Signs of iron deficiency could be presented physically as fatigue, lack of motivation, apathy or even depression
– Problems to pay attention to:
The lack of zinc-containing foods could be partly to blame. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that low levels of zinc in children may be related to attention deficits or to activity and motor development.
Dry skin may mean you are chronically dehydrated or it means you need to increase your intake of essential fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin E. Potassium and vitamin D should also be added.
Poor dramatic weight gain, or weight loss, is a troubling symptom in a child of any age. This may be due to poor nutritional intake, poor absorption of nutrients or, less frequently, a health condition that increases the metabolic rate
Demanding children tend to concentrate on only a few different foods and are generally not of the high fiber variety. Often, delicate eaters are getting too much of something good. In this case a pediatrician may recommend a fiber supplement, or tricks such as adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the shakes.
It should be noted that there are some conditions that can lead to disorders of food and swallowing.
– Being premature or having a low birth weight
– Reflux or other stomach problems
– Respiratory problems such as asthma.
– Cleft lip or palate
– Muscular weakness in face and neck.
– Drugs that numb or cause loss of appetite.
– Autism or sensory problems.
– Diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, meningitis.