“…but my child will only eat chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese…”
“…I put a vegetable on their plate and they started crying…”
“…I make one meal for the family and then another meal for my picky child…”
Sound familiar? Picky eating is common and it can cause meal times to be stressful and not enjoyable. Kids get frustrated and parents sometimes feel like they are running a restaurant having to make different meals for everyone. Sometimes it can seem like all your kid will eat is junk food. However, picky eating can be changed!
Here are some tips to handle your kid’s (or grown-up’s) picky eating courtesy of We Can!, Let’s Move!, the Mayo Clinic and Nourish Interactive:
Make your child a Sous Chef!
Get kids helping! A kid may be more likely to try and eat a food if they help pick it out at the grocery store or farmer’s market and/or help with the preparing and cooking of it. Get children involved in:
- Deciding what to buy at the store. Let them have free reign of the fruits and vegetables section and let them decide what the family will try that week. Then, have them help with finding ways on the internet or in cookbooks to prepare the food item that was chosen.
- Let them help with preparing and cooking the food (as is developmentally appropriate). Perhaps they can help with cutting or microwaving something.
Grownups have to eat the food too!
Kids are more likely to do something they see grownups doing. If they see the grown-ups in their world refusing certain foods or calling something “gross” – chances are, they aren’t going to eat it either. Set a good example and make sure you are getting all your food groups in and trying a variety of things! If there is a food you aren’t that crazy about, have your child help you find ways to like it. Setting a good example will set your kid up for success!
Forcing doesn’t lead to liking new foods! Neither does bribing!
If you were a member of the “clean your plate” club when you were a kid, you can remember times you were forced to eat something you didn’t like. That doesn’t encourage healthy habits or a good relationship with food. Repeatedly exposing kids to new food options by putting a portion on their plate is a better option. Remember, it can take 15-20 tastings before a child develops a like for a food. We also want to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of bribing kids! Get away from: “you can have ice cream; if you eat your broccoli.” That doesn’t lead to making healthy eating choices either.
Pair something unfamiliar with something familiar!
You want to pair something they are familiar with, with something they aren’t. For example, if they like ranch dressing – use a serving size amount to have them try a new vegetable. Perhaps try a new food in soups or scrambled eggs (if they like those).
Make the healthy options the easiest to grab!
Let’s face it – unhealthy snack foods get us because they are so convenient…just open a bag and go! Work to make the healthy foods in your house the only options and just as easy to grab as “junk food.” Peel up fresh fruits and vegetables and have them portioned out and ready to grab in the fridge. The easier it is to choose the healthier option – the better path you are on to getting your kids to try something new!
Have fun with it!
Make food fun! Try new shapes with your food, make it in new ways – try it with dips! Have room outside? Plant a garden and let kids have fun taking care of growing food for the family. The more you can have fun with it – the less new foods seem scary and the more they become things kids want to have!
Picky eating can be tough but using some of these strategies can lead to changes and a more enjoyable meal time experience. If you have ongoing concerns regarding your child’s growth or limited range of foods, consult your pediatrician.
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Proper citation link for this blog post:
Santos, M. (2016, May 25) Managing Picky Eating. Retrieved from http://infoaboutkids.org/blog/managing-picky-eating.