If children's nutrition is a sore topic in your household, you're not alone. Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don't eat. Some kids refuse to eat anything other than chicken nuggets while others would rather play than eat anything at all.
Numerous studies looked at kids' eating patterns and found that fussy, picky or choosy eating habits were linked to and affected by everything from personality traits to parental control at mealtime to social influences. It could also just be that your kid is simply being, well, just a kid!
Try these 10 tips with your picky eater:
Set a routine: Serve your kids meals and snacks at the same time every day. Creating a schedule will help to make sure that kids are hungry at mealtime. Give them water between meals and snacks so that they don’t fill up before meals.
Have patience: Don’t pressure your kids into trying new foods, give them time to accept new foods. Understand that it might take a while for your child to eat certain foods and try not to get frustrated. Continue to expose kids to new foods so that they build confidence to try them.
Minimize distractions: Your kids should be focused on eating when it comes to mealtime. Make sure to turn off any electronics and put away any toys during meals so that they can focus. Sit your kids at the kitchen or dining room table so they know that this is where eating happens, not playing.
Involve kids in meal prep: Have them help you pick out the ingredients for the recipe. Bring them with you to the supermarket and point out the different ingredients.
Make food fun: Get creative with the presentation! Arrange foods in a fun way on their plate. Add some eyes, a nose, and a mouth to their favorite food. Use different cookie cutters to create food in fun shapes for your kids. Instead of giving them a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, use a star cookie cutter to create an appealing sandwich.
Have them help you cook: Find healthy recipes online and in cookbooks together. Give them tasks in the kitchen: such as measuring ingredients, pressing the button on the oven, or keeping track of the kitchen timer. Give them a taste of the ingredients you are using for the recipe.
Be a good role model: Kids pay attention to what their parents are eating and often mimic their actions. Eat healthy foods in front of them and show them that you are enjoying them. If they see you enjoying healthy foods, they may be more willing to try them.
Try again: When your kids refuse a food, try again. Don’t give up! Offer new foods and foods they may have said no to in the past. Try serving these foods for a different meal or in a different recipe.
Reward your child: Make sure they know you are proud of them for trying a new food. Instead of rewarding them with dessert or a special treat, reward them in ways that don’t relate to food. A new toy, stickers, and extra play time are great ways to reward them.
Learn your child’s taste and texture preferences: Pay attention to the foods your child enjoys so that you can offer similar foods that they will be more likely to accept. If a child likes foods that are crunchy such as pretzels, try introducing them to vegetables that have a crunch such as carrots.
Reminder to Parents:
Although you may get frustrated, remember to stay calm and try these tips. The small steps you take will help with your child’s food acceptance. Keep in mind that you are not alone and that many parents are going through the same thing. If you are still concerned with your child’s eating habits, reach out to your pediatrician. They may be able to recommend some other solutions and can put you in contact with a professional who specializes in picky eating.