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Is your child a 'picky eater'?

July 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
We call them picky eaters, pediatricians prefer to call them "selective eaters." Kids will say no to food for various reasons, including to get attention and to assert their independence. Most of the time, they simply don't like the taste. So pediatricians suggest parents try some new strategies.Few toddlers like broccoli, but 3-year-old Sam Ledesma doesn't like to eat much of anything.

"Feeding time in the household can be challenging as you can see," said Sam's dad, Cay Ledesma.

Sam just pecks and pulls on his food. His big brother Marcus can't figure Sam out.

"That's what I was wondering about, he just plays without eating," said Marcus Ledesma.

"I would say one out of two kids are picky eaters. So that is a lot of kids in the United States," said pediatrician Dr. John Mangoni.

Dr. Mangoni says choosing to eat or not is one way kids try to exercise their independence and when parents push them eating turns into a power struggle.

Dr. Mangoni says there are ways to avoid this.

"Put it in front of them and if they don't want to eat it without a struggle within 10 to 15 minutes take it away with a smile," said Dr. Mangoni.

He says your toddler won't starve if they skip a meal or two because some days they eats more than others. And just because a child says no to veggies at first, he'll eventually try them if you continue to make healthy foods available. Sometimes it takes ten to fifteen attempts.

"They may not try it today. They may not try it tomorrow. But after time they will be comfortable with seeing it and if they see the parents eating this food and enjoying it they will attempt to try it also," said Dr. Mangoni.

Sam tends to throw tantrums if he doesn't get his sweet snacks. To avoid total disruption, dad usually gives in.

"In order to keep my sanity it is a lot easier to just give him something throughout the day," said Cay Ledesma.

That's probably why Sam won't eat at meal time. So experts say avoid snacking which includes juice and milk. And don't bribe your kids with promises of dessert. In the end it won't promote healthy eating practices.

To prevent picky eating Dr. Mangoni says introduce new foods to first time eaters every three or four days. Get their pallets use to different tastes.

And in older kids try plain old logic. Five-year-old Marcus knows why veggies are good.

"I want to be a big man and strong when I grow up," said Marcus Ledesma.

And here's a trap many parents fall into. When kids skip meals, parents might give them cookies or crackers when they say they're hungry. Don't, it's a pattern that will happen over and over.

Dr. Mangoni says instead: only give your child water in between meals.

 

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