Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenge for many parents with young kids. My youngest son is a great eater. He eats, or at least tries, pretty much any food I put in front of him. However, my older son has always been picky. Sometimes he even rejects food that he once loved. It’s easy for parents to worry that their kids don’t receive sufficient nutrients for their growing bodies. Here are a few tips for helping your picky eater enjoy healthy food:
Treat Picky Eaters with Patience
Young children will often turn up their noses to new foods. Children find security in the familiar, so it’s natural for them to resist change – this includes food choices. Kids are comfortable with the foods they enjoy, and if left to their own devices, would live solely on these foods. I’m certain my kids would live off processed junk food if given the choice. These food products are typically high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. Artificial flavors and dyes are often added too. Remember that most kids need repeated neutral exposure to new foods. Introduce new foods without pressure. Let your kids watch you enjoy a new healthy food and don’t force them to try it. Repeat this many times. Studies have shown that kids may need eight or more exposures to a new food before liking it. Studies have also shown that parental food choices influence those of their children. If you eat healthy foods on a regular basis, your kids will too. Patience is the key.
Involve Picky Eaters in Choosing Foods
While food shopping, have your kids choose some fruits and vegetables. Young kids start to develop a sense of independence and will love feeling in control. Whenever possible, involve your kids in meal preparation too. They will love helping with safe tasks like mixing ingredients in a bowl. Kids may be more apt to try foods they helped prepare. Give your kids access to the healthy food they picked out. Placing bowls of cut fruits and vegetables where kids can reach them might prompt them to try a piece.
Mix Healthy Foods with Foods Picky Eaters Enjoy
Most kids like condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, or salad dressing. Let them dip their green beans in one of their favorite condiments. Another idea is to pour melted cheese over broccoli. It may not be ideal – but I’d rather see my kids eat vegetables with cheese or ranch dip, than none at all. Remember to pick your battles. If your kids eat a new vegetable when you add something extra, you’re still making progress!
Make It Fun for Picky Eaters
Children’s work is play, so it’s a good idea to put fun into the mix. Kids love guessing games. While blindfolded, have them guess the names of fruits and vegetables based on their shapes and textures. Make up silly songs about fruits and vegetables. Kids are very creative when it comes to having fun, so encourage them to make up their own games. I also involved my picky eater with planting the seeds for our garden, which grabbed his interest and attention. He has enjoyed watching the plants grow and produce food. This has also sparked an interest in “where food comes from”, which is a great ongoing discussion to have with kids.
If you have any other tips/ideas that have worked with your picky eater, please leave me a comment below!