What you need to know about food tantrums and neophobia
Tantrums might be a part and parcel of everyday life if you have a toddler who is picky about food. While growing up, toddlers tend to assert their identity or independence by choosing to eat only a certain kind of food or rejecting foods he is unfamiliar with. However, this fussy eating behaviour can cost him a lot in terms of nutrient deficiencies. When a child doesn’t consume foods from different food groups like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins, they end up affecting their growth and development. So, in this article, you will not only come across effective ways to deal with food tantrums, but also get to know about neophobia.
What is neophobia?
Some kids might be simply apprehensive about trying new foods. And this fear is called neophobia. The best way to deal with this fear is by offering new foods repeatedly in changing avatars. For instance, carrots can be served as sticks or chopped pieces or circular slices. Avoid force-feeding as it can do more harm than good.
If possible, you can offer substitutes or alternatives that will provide the same or similar nourishment. So, if your child does not like cheese, try giving him yoghurt. Don’t forget that children look up to you as their role models. So, if you try new foods, they too will be ready to experiment.
Introduce variety to deal with fussy eating behaviour
It is obvious for a parent to worry when a toddler creates tantrums and does not eat food. So, as a first step, what you can do is offer the previously rejected food when he is really hungry. Encourage your kid to eat by himself as well. It just might work.
If you are introducing a new food, serve a familiar food along with it, so that your child is tempted to try.
Another smart strategy is to introduce solids in a child’s diet from the time he is 6 months. Also, you should not add any salt or sugar to his meals. This way, by the time he becomes a toddler, he will be used to the original tastes and flavours of different grains, veggies, fruits and meats. This will reduce the chance of rejection.
Fight fussy eating by getting them involved
One of the best ways to deal with fussiness is by taking your toddler for grocery shopping. Allow him to choose from healthy fruits and veggies. This way, he will be more interested to try them. Get them involved while cooking a meal too, as they will learn to appreciate the efforts that go into it.
A fussy child might not complete all meals or eat enough on some days. So, just keep a track of how much he has eaten over a week. Also monitor if your child is active and is consistently gaining weight. As long as these signs are positive, he is fine.
Explain the benefits of all the major food groups to your child. Help him understand how carbohydrates give him energy, proteins build his muscles, fibre boosts his digestion and vitamins and minerals enhance his immunity and support all his vital functions.
Your behaviour can impact fussy eating too
There are innumerable reasons why a child might exhibit fussy eating behaviour. Toddler tantrums might be due to a lifestyle change, or it might be because they feel you are upset, or they want your attention. Hence, you must modulate your behaviour to address their tantrums.
The first trick is to stay calm and have patience, no matter what. If you react, your child might be encouraged to become fussier. Avoid discussing only meals with your child, and talk about other topics as well, like their hobbies, their dreams etc.
Do not use food as a reward or a punishment. Provide them the same meals as you give the rest of the family. If they create tantrums at a restaurant, stay calm and take them to either a washroom or parking place, and just wait till they quieten down.
Consistency is another major key to success while dealing with toddler tantrums. If you are dealing with your kids’ behaviour in one specific way, do not change the approach. Encourage your child to talk and figure out the reason behind their behaviour.
Inculcating healthy eating habits in your child early on is important to reduce the risk of obesity and eating disorders in the coming years. So, try the above tips and gradually, your little one might see the benefit of consuming balanced meals. If the fussy eating behaviour continues, you can also consult a nutritionist or dietician for guidance.
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