Many Faces of Picky Eaters: The Slow Eater

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In a survey conducted by Abbott Nutrition, nearly 1 in 2 Singaporean parents say that their child is a picky eater. But which type of picky eater is your child? In Part 1 of our many faces of picky eaters series, we look at ‘The Slow Eater’ and find out how you can help your child overcome this picky eating habit.

Getting to know the slow eater

Is your child a slow eater?

Is your child a slow eater?

Slow eating, which is a form of picky eating in kids, can pose a problem for your child’s overall nourishment. This happens when she fails to finish her food at mealtimes, despite taking a few hours to eat. And if lunch drags on for too long, she may not be hungry at dinnertime. All these may result in a diminished intake of nutrients.

Some children do not have a problem with eating or with the food served. They may love eating, but the only thing is that they do it really slowly. For parents, seeing your child hold food in her mouth for a long time can be frustrating. But with time, lots of patience and some effective feeding strategies, you could find her asking for seconds in no time!

Telltale signs that your child may be a slow eater

– Taking more than half an hour to finish a meal (At times, her meal may be barely touched)

– Playing with food

– Holding food in the mouth or chewing excessively without swallowing

– Requiring constant reminders to chew or swallow

– Requiring a sip of beverage with each mouthful of food

Consequences of picky eating

– Inadequate nutrition

– Compromised growth

– Susceptibility to illness

– Lower cognitive development

– Strained parent-child relationship

So, why is your child a slow eater?

– She may be experimenting with food

– She gets easily distracted

– She is learning to eat without the need for you to feed her

Mum shares

Emily Ang and 7-year-old Keira

Emily Ang and 7-year-old Keira

Emily Ang, mum of 7-year-old Keira Marie Carlyle shares: “When we have a family meal, my youngest daughter never fails to take her time to eat. She sits at the table, takes a bite and then chews and chews without swallowing. My husband and I have to remind her to swallow her food. She spends up to 2 hours to finish her food and gets easily distracted. Sometimes, she falls asleep at the dining table. I am getting a little stressed with this situation. We don’t understand why she is behaving this way.”

Doctor’s advice

Dr Chu Hui Ping, Consultant Paediatrician at Raffles Hospital

Dr Chu Hui Ping, Consultant Paediatrician at Raffles Hospital

According to Dr Chu Hui Ping, Consultant Paediatrician at Raffles Hospital, it is common for most children to go through a phase of slow eating, as they tend to show more interest in play than food. This usually happens when their growth rate tapers.

Some ways to help your child eat faster

– Set a fixed feeding schedule that includes 3 main meals and 1 afternoon snack (3-4 hours apart)

– Introduce a 30-minute meal duration rule, and remove the plate of food even if she has not finished

– Serve only water between meals. Avoid snacks, juice or milk – anything that could potentially be filling.

– Keep serving portions small and age-appropriate, making it more achievable for her to complete the meal

– Avoid distractions so that she can focus on completing the meal

With these steps, your child learns to build up an appetite for the next meal and eating together as a family will be enjoyable rather than a chore.

Children may also eat slowly due to other reasons such as food allergies, reflux, oral motor development delays or sensory issues. It is best to visit your paediatrician for assessment and advice if you are concerned with your child’s eating habits of growth.

For more tips on teaching your child healthy eating habits, go to www.pickyeating.com.sg

The many faces of picky eaters series:

Part 2: The junk food lover

Part 3: The choosy eater

Part 4: The small eater