It’s natural for you to be concerned that your picky eater isn’t getting the nutrition he needs to grow and be healthy. It’s also natural for young ones to be a little hesitant to try new foods. Adopting a few basic strategies get picky eaters to eat healthy – or at least lay the foundation for good nutrition in the future.
Meal times don’t need to be a battle. Start breaking your picky eater’s habits early, while still having respect for her tastes and appetite. Help shape healthy eating early by:
- Starting Before Meal Time: Sometimes children are picky eaters as a way to exert control in their life. Help avoid this by involving them in meals before they hit the table. Choices about purchasing and help preparing meals helps give children a sense of control over their food choices.
- Defuse the Power Struggle: If your child doesn’t want to eat, respect that. Forcing children to eat, or forcing them to eat foods they don’t like, can cause anxiety for both of you. Take anxiety out of meal time by allowing your child to make choices about his food.
- One Meal For Everyone: Finicky eating may be an expression of control , but don’t put too much power in your toddler’s hands. She gets to eat the same things everyone in the family does. Hopping up to cook a separate meal when the first one is rejected only empowers her to refuse anything she doesn’t like.
- Be Patient: Introducing a new food to a child isn’t always a one-step process. It’s normal for children to touch and smell new food, and this experimentation may extend to mouthfeel. Let them put small amounts in their mouth to taste. If they’re not comfortable with it, it’s OK for them to take it out of their mouth. You can work on etiquette when they’re older.
- Be Crafty: The best way to sneak new foods into your child’s mouth is under the cover of foods they already like. Add fruits to pancakes or vegetables in macaroni and cheese.
Picky eaters eat healthy – eventually. Be patient and, most importantly, provide a good example yourself. Kids tend to model their parents’ behavior, and they’ll likely end up owing a lot of their eating habits to your influence. For additional support, schedule an appointment with one of The Youth Clinic’s Registered Dietitians.