If you know my family well or have been reading my blog a little, you know that my house is full of picky eaters. Even my husband and I are picky eaters. But, early in our parenthood journey, we recognized that we did not want to pass on our pickiness to our children. We use these picky eater tips to encourage them to try a variety of foods.
Studies show that dads actually have a stronger influence on what their children eat. Unfortunately, my husband is pickier than I am. (One of my past coworkers used to tell me, “You’re husband isn’t anti-vegetable; he’s just pro-meat.”) Seriously though, my husband and I both know it is important to teach our picky eaters the value of a healthy, well-balanced diet. We still struggle though. After a long day, who wants to fight with a toddler about their dinner? Sometimes, it even seems easier to make two separate meals. But, I certainly don’t want to become a short order cook.
Eating healthy, well-balanced meals is a learned trait, just like learning to walk or tie shoes. Some foods are harder to “learn” to like than others. Toddlers learn to eat high sugar or high fat foods faster than healthier foods like broccoli or spinach. But trying to get a picky eater to learn to like new foods can be very frustrating! My children will even turn their noses up at a new combination of foods they love. With three children, we have had to come up with many strategies for dealing with picky eating. Here are our tips for handling your picky eater.
Make eating fun
Let them use different utensils, like toothpicks or chopsticks.
Let them play with their food. I let my toddler paint with yogurt.
Give them something else to focus on instead of what they are putting into their mouths.
Get your picky eater involved
Have older kids plan dinner. I have my son help with our weekly meal plans and use it as an opportunity to remind him about what foods make a well-balanced meal. We talk about what vegetables he might be willing to try and how we can make our food tastier.
Besides planning, there are plenty of ways to let them get involved in cooking. A toddler or preschooler can be given a small “salad” to toss. As they get older, let them do more in the kitchen. There are other valuable lessons to be learned while cooking (like fractions and reading recipes).
Watch out for snacks!
Sometimes kids aren’t eating well at regular meal times because they have had too many snacks or their snacks are too large. Try cutting back on snacks. Remember, their little stomachs are,well,….little. Even if their snack is a healthy one, try serving less at snack time or cutting it out altogether depending how old they are. Change the time you serve snacks.
Find the right pairing
And I’m not talking about wine. Pair new foods with familiar foods you know they will enjoy. I serve mac & cheese when we have fish for dinner. My kids do not really like fish, but they love mac & cheese! Kids will be more likely to try one new thing, rather than a plate full of unfamiliar foods.
Be a Role Model
Isn’t this true for pretty much everything we teach our children? It can be really difficult though! Especially with a busy schedule, you may find yourself making the same meals over and over. My kids have eaten pizza 3 days in a row before. But, studies show that kids eat more fruits and vegetables when their parents do. So, use it as motivation to eat a variety of foods and try some new things, and your kids will grow up eating a better variety too!
Bribe Reward them
When all else fails, I am not above bribing rewarding my kids. A gentle reminder that they can have a piece of candy if they finish their meal helps them get down that last piece of zucchini or bite of rice.
These are just a few of our strategies for handling your picky eaters. Remember to make eating a pleasant experience, but be firm and persistent. Children need to taste, touch and see a food several times before they learn to like it or at least tolerate it. My son used to turn his nose up at unfamiliar foods and say, “this isn’t my favorite.” Well, vegetables aren’t necessarily my favorite either. We can’t just eat our favorite foods (mine would be chocolate) all day every day. We can learn to enjoy foods that are healthy for us too!
What are your tricks for getting picky eaters to eat new foods?
Sharing is Caring. Please consider sharing on your favorite social media site!