How to Prevent Picky Eaters
Is dinnertime a constant struggle in your house? You prepare and serve the food, and your children, bless their hearts, decide that it is "smelly," "gross," "disgusting," or they simply, "don't like that, Mom"? As a parent trying to provide the best for your child, dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating and disheartening. There is nothing worse than taking the time to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal for your child to have them blatantly refuse to even consider getting within the same foot of space as the plate that you served it on.
Here are seven tips to help you both prevent your child from becoming a picky eater and dealing if they already are one.
1. Try, try again. Have you ever had a day where nothing sounds good for dinner even though you're starving? Then why is it so unheard of that your kids may have those same days?
I know that so many times my children will eat something one day, only to refuse it the next and then go right back to eating it the next time we serve it. Continue to introduce your children to food, even after they've refused it, as tastes and preferences take several exposures to be established.
2. Determine when your child eats. One thing I've learned as a mom is that my kids don't always prefer the same mealtimes. For instance, getting my 10-year-old to eat breakfast is a constant struggle, and I'm happy when I can convince her a serving of yogurt will do her good, but at dinnertime, she readily asks for seconds. My 5-year-old is the opposite, where dinnertime is generally more of a struggle.
Because I know the time of day my kids prefer to eat, I'll try to offer more of the nutrition when they're most apt to eat it. By serving vegetable hash with scrambled eggs at breakfast, I don't have to worry as much when my 5-year-old picks over dinner, eating a bite here or there. I already know he has what he needs for the day.
3. Food can be fun. Given the choice between dinosaur chicken nuggets and carrot sticks, most kids are going to choose the dinosaur nuggets because, well, they're exciting.
Rather than just include animal-shaped meat pieces at every meal, try making the real food that is good for them fun as well. Serve carrot coin gold pieces on a mashed potato island alongside a chicken breast pirate ship.
4. Involve your kids in the meal planning process. By offering your children a choice for dinner, helping them shop and prepare it, you're setting them up to successfully be able to feed themselves in the future, but you're also helping them get a sense of ownership over the meal.
Do you ever think your child is disagreeing with you just because he/she can? It's probably true some of the time, and this can translate into food refusal at the dinner table. Avoid this by having them help plan what's for dinner this week. You can discuss vegetable offerings and planning a well balanced meal, and when it comes time to eat it, they'll know they helped get it to the table.
5. Introduce new foods with familiar flavors. Foods we haven't tried before can cause anxiety even as adults. Kids can have these same fears. Introducing these new textures and flavors with ones they're already accustomed to eating can make a big difference in getting them to accept and try the food.
A salmon served with a pineapple salsa over rice may go over better than a Cajun-rubbed grilled salmon steak with asparagus spears. Think about your children's preferences, and try to incorporate those as you prepare to introduce new foods.
6. Be sure to serve one thing your children like. If you're afraid your child will go to bed hungry if you don't cater to their likes and dislikes by offering up a bowl of macaroni and cheese, just be sure to include at least one food that they enjoy for each meal.
My son has waged war on chicken, saying we eat it too often. I know getting chicken in him is going to be a struggle, so I will make red beans and rice or broccoli or other foods he enjoys to go along with it that are also good for him.
7. Stop treating your child like a picky eater. There is a lot to say for children rising to their expectations, and if you expect your child not to eat something or to refuse it, you're leaving the door wide open for that to happen.
Serve your child a plate of all the foods you're eating that meal and expect them to at least try them all. While they may not like them, really, they aren't going to know that for sure until they give it a try. Get them in the habit of trying everything, and you might be surprised to find that the thing you thought they'd hate most if the thing they really enjoy.