Having a child who is a picky eater can make life difficult.
Many times those pleasant family meals together at home or at your favorite restaurants turn into daily battles.
For those of you who know the struggle, here are five tips that can help you deal with your picky eaters!
- Forget the Food Fights – When your kid refuses to eat, most mom’s first reaction is to force them, either with bribes, threats, or god-forbid, physical force! But, it is best to avoid “food fights” altogether. As children grow, they need to learn to listen to their bodies, and we as parents need to believe what they are being told. If your kid refuses to eat because he says he or she is “not hungry,” maybe that’s true. Maybe breakfast was enough for them to skip lunch or even dinner. As a mom, it is your responsibility to provide healthy and nutritious meals for your kid. It is your kid’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.
- Try, try again – If you are dealing with a specific food that you want your finicky kid to eat, don’t give up after they refuse it the first or even the second time. Keep offering new foods along with those your child didn’t like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting something before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry when new food is introduced.
- Eat “Family Style” – Share a meal together as a family as often as you can. This means no media distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you’ve served. This only encourages picky eating.
- Get Them to Help Prepare the Meal – Kids who help their parents get dinner ready are much more likely to want to consume the food on their plates. Take it a step further and have them not only help you prep but cook as well. If you’re feeling extremely ambitious (or your family already gardens), kids who can help plant seeds, grow fruits and veggies, pick them, and bring them into the house to be cooked are very likely to want to try what they worked so hard to help make.
- Use the “Something of Everything, Everything of Something” Rule – This is a trick that many nutritionists and pediatricians recommend. Tell you kids that before they can be finished with their meal, they have to have at least one bite of everything on their plate and must finish all of one thing of their choice. When this rule is employed, make sure to pack their plates with a bunch of healthy foods — mix in mashed veggies or something like a pouch for extra fruit and veggie servings in every food — that way, they’ll be getting a little something of everything, but more importantly, whichever food they choose to eat all of, will be great for them as well.
Keep in Mind
Keep in mind that every kid is a picky eater to some degree. As a toddler starts to transition to solid “adult” foods, usually around the time they start to walk, it is a natural defense mechanism to spit out bitter or sour foods, as in the days of our wild ancestors these could be poisonous. Most kids actually need to eat a lot less than moms think they do, and grandmas just have to understand that those chubby pinchable cheeks are not a sign of a strong, healthy baby!
However, if you have tried the techniques above, and you really think your kid is not eating enough, talk with your pediatrician, who can help troubleshoot and make sure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients to grow and develop.
Picky eating usually is a normal developmental stage for kids. As a mom, it’s your job to do your best to patiently guide them on their path toward healthy eating.