It can be so frustrating when our little ones stop eating foods they used to eat. Foods that were once safe are now boycotted. As parents, it can be difficult to understand their newfound hatred for bananas when it was their first and favorite food!
While it is definitely a challenge for you as the parent, sometimes it is easier when we understand the why.
When we know the reason, we can show compassion and find the right avenue for navigating a season of picky eating.
They’re Burnt Out
If you have a picky eater, you likely are circulating a small number of the same foods just to make sure they eat.
We serve them often to keep them fed, but eventually they get burnt out on the same fruits and vegetables day after day… who wouldn’t?
To avoid burnout, don’t over-serve the same food. Push it to every other day, or prepare it in a new way.
You’re Pushing Too Hard
Do you find yourself pressuring your child to eat? Whether it’s bribing, begging, pleading, or praising, pushing them to eat often results in them rejecting the very food you want them to eat!
When we pressure them, it sends up a red flag! And while it may work in the beginning, it will only leave us with a larger hill to climb once the damage is done.
Avoid pressure methods like the ones listed above, as well as counting bites, celebrating each bite, or feeding them yourself.
Often, giving them space helps them feel more in control which leads to eating those same foods we had previously begged them to eat!
They’re Looking For Control
There are so many aspects of children’s lives that are out of their control, and for good reason. But when they feel out of control in one area of their life, they may seek control somewhere else–like their food!
In coaching calls with my Table Talk members, I often get told, “I don’t know what’s going on! They used to eat these foods but now they refuse!” When I dig a little deeper, 50% of the time there is something new going on in their life–a new sibling, a new school, a grandparent moved in, or possibly a worldwide lockdown.
We can support them by giving them options, no more than two at a time, during meal times. Make sure to only offer options you are comfortable with! For example, if you don’t want them drinking soda, don’t offer it. This allows them to express their choice while leaving you, the parent, with control of the options they have to choose from.
Their Taste is Changing
Did you know our taste buds change every two weeks?! Imagine the confusion as a toddler trying to navigate those changes.
There is lots of research left to be done here, but remember our children are growing and developing all the time, including their taste buds.
And while it’s frustrating for us that they dislike something they ate a month ago, it also presents an opportunity for them to try and accept new foods.
As adults, foods go in and out of favor in different seasons of our lives and kids are no different!
They’re Getting Sick or Teething
Maybe your little one is getting a stomach bug and the acidity of oranges upsets it. Or the chicken at dinner is hard for them to chew with a new molar coming in.
Maybe the food just doesn’t seem appetizing when they’re sick. It could even be that their smell is off because of congestion, as our smell makes up 80% of our tasting ability!
Regardless of the reason, it is only a season and it will pass. Show compassion, offer them nutritious options to get them through, and know it won’t last forever.
They Had a Bad Experience
Have you ever had a watery, unsatisfying watermelon, blueberries that were entirely too sour, or chicken that just didn’t smell right?
Kids are even more sensitive to these changes than we are and often they’ll remember that experience the next time that food is offered, causing them to distrust it.
Don’t freak out, convince them to give it one more try, or use other pressuring techniques. Let them have the freedom to choose when and if they decide to try it again.
Another solution would be to try our kids’ food sometimes. It’s not necessary at every meal, but giving it a little bit of a spot check every now and then can help us understand a bit better.
I always advocate eating meals together with your children. When we do so, we are present for those small changes and can help navigate them before they become a bigger issue.
I know it’s challenging having a picky eater. Or maybe your child isn’t typically picky but is still rejecting foods they used to eat.
Even if they’re dropping foods, there are still things we can do to encourage them to keep trying. Just because they’re done for now doesn’t mean they’re done for good and the only way to guarantee they won’t eat something is to avoid serving it altogether!
This happens. It’s life. Our kids go through different phases and challenges just like we do. If it feels stressful or overwhelming or you’re worried about how to move forward, I invite you to join my Table Talk course, a program that teaches you to be your own feeding expert, because you know your child best.