Imagine, you\u2019ve prepared a full spread of delicious food for dinner, only to have your child turn up their nose at everything on their plate. You try to coax them to try just one thing, you guide the imaginary aeroplane spoon with special sound effects into their mouth, and food ends up anywhere but their tummies. And it starts to escalate into a full blown battle to get them to eat. Sound familiar? Today, we are honoured to have Dr. JoAnn Rajah, Paediatrician from FirstStep Child Specialist Clinic, to help us out of our sticky situations with our picky eaters. Q1. What is picky eating? And how do I know if I have a picky eater? Dr. JoAnn: So, first and foremost, there is actually no universal definition for picky eaters. However, children who are picky eaters share common characteristics such as the unwillingness to try new food or even familiar food. And of course, they also have very strong food preferences. There would definitely come a time where every toddler will experience some form of food preference. It is normal and eventually, the child will outgrow this phase. However, some children may have very limited food choices and that can be a problem if it goes on a long term. So, some of the signs that you may be dealing with a picky eater include: \teating a limited amount of food \trefusing food\u2014particularly fruits and vegetables \tunwilling to try new foods \taccepting only a few types of food \tpreferring drinks over food \thaving strong food preferences. Q2. Why is my child so fussy with food? Dr. JoAnn: Children can be picky eaters for many reasons. A young child is developing their sense of autonomy, so they may prefer to feed themselves and start choosing the food they eat. There are also some children who are more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. So while some children may prefer soft foods, others might prefer crunchy textures. The next would be, late introduction of complementary foods, especially lumpy foods, which can also affect a child\u2019s food acceptance later on. When we talk about introducing complementary foods, it should be introduced in the sixth month. So no delaying; unless the doctor has already advised you to delay the complementary foods due to certain issues. For example, prematurity or if the child has any underlying neurological issues such as difficulty in swallowing, things like that. So, in a normal and very healthy child, complementary foods should be introduced by the sixth month onward. Picky eating habits are also more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children\u2019s eating behaviours. So, no more saying, \u201cIf you eat your meal, I\u2019m going to give you candy\u201d or \u201cI\u2019m going to give you an ice cream after that\u201d, as this does not work for children. And some children also develop unhealthy eating habits by modelling their parent\u2019s eating habits. Just like the phrase, \u201cMonkey see, monkey do\u201d, parents who are selective in their food are more likely to have picky eaters too. Q3. Will picky eating affect my child and should I worry? Dr. JoAnn: The good news is that picky eating also consists of a spectrum. If a child dislikes certain food but still eats a good variety of other food, then this will unlikely cause any impact on the child\u2019s growth. So then, for that reason, you don\u2019t have to worry as long as their daily life and growth isn\u2019t affected. That just means that it is a phase that they will eventually overcome. However, for children at the extreme end of the spectrum, the limited or lack of food consumed can actually affect the child\u2019s growth. So, do also take note of these red flags in children especially those with feeding difficulties: \tIf there is any difficulty or pain during swallowing. \tIf there is any coughing or choking during feeding. \tDoes the child get frequent episodes of lung infection? \tIs the child falling off the growth charts? \tAre there any other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea? Parents should always refer to their doctors if they have any concerns about their child\u2019s eating patterns or behaviour. Q4. How can I help improve my child's eating habits? Dr. JoAnn: Good eating habits need to be cultivated in every child. Some of the important mealtime rules that parents should take note of include: \tAvoiding distractions during meals Allow your child to fully focus on the meal. This includes putting away toys, books, switching off the TV and any other forms of diversions. \tHave regular meal times Feed children at regular times and space the meals and snacks by 2-3 hours apart. In between, offer only water, so that there would be enough space in their little tummy to accommodate their meals. \tGive realistic food portions Sometimes, we parents may overestimate how much our children should actually take. Keep portions small\u2014roughly the size of their fists and not ours, but allow your child to also ask for additional helpings whenever they want to. \tLimit meal times Parents will sometimes tend to prolong meal times even up to one hour. So much so that their child will finish everything on their plate. However, that will only make mealtimes draggy and reduce your child\u2019s enthusiasm. So keep meal times roughly about 20-30 minutes maximum, even if your child has eaten very little or did not finish the meal. \tEncourage independent eating Children need to use all their 5 senses to enjoy their food. Encourage independent eating and close an eye to the mess that they make. \tKeeping neutral and encouraging good behaviour at all times Despite how frustrated you are, keep your emotions in check and remain neutral. Give praises when your child feeds himself and avoid using food to treat or reward your child.\u00a0 \tEat together as a family Gently teach your child to remain seated at the table during mealtimes. I think in order to do this, it will be a very good habit to eat together as a family. Because babies like to imitate. So eating together will create better eating habits. Q5.\u00a0 Is there anything I can do to help my child's nutritional intake? Dr. JoAnn: One of the ways you can increase a picky eater\u2019s nutritional intake is to serve nutrient-dense meals. What it means is to offer your child foods that pack lots of nutrients in smaller doses. Some nutrient-dense foods that most children are willing to eat include avocados, broccoli, peanut butter, tofu, Greek yoghurt, potatoes, cheese, sweet potatoes and many more. Vitamin and mineral supplementation may be considered if the child\u2019s diet lacks nutrients. Choose one that has essential vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B5 and B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and minerals such as iron, folic acid, iodine and zinc. Q6. Do you have anything else to share? Dr. JoAnn: No matter how fussy a child might be while eating, don\u2019t turn mealtimes into a battlefield. Be a good role model, keep trying and stay positive! But just remember that, as parents, if you release that negative energy, it kind of goes into your kids as well. So try to keep positive and your kid will be positive, too. https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v3c1dv98yZr8 Go for BiO-LiFE Kid\u2019s Gummies Multivitamins + Minerals As parents, our child\u2019s growth is something we always think about. BiO-LiFE Kid\u2019s Gummies Multivitamins + Minerals is a fruity-flavour gummy that contains 8 essential Vitamins and 2 different types of minerals to help children get essential nutrients they need easily. It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Folic acid, Biotin, Iodine and Zinc. It\u2019s easy to chew and has no added artificial sweetener and preservatives. It\u2019s suitable for: \tpicky eaters \tchildren who have an imbalanced diet \tchildren who wish to improve physical well-being Now, you can simply get BiO-LiFE Kid\u2019s Gummies Multivitamins + Minerals here! And stay tuned for more tips on your kid\u2019s health in our next episode of\u00a0AskMeDoctor! For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!