Many parents find themselves at a means to an end when it comes to dealing with a picky eater. However, your child’s nutrition shouldn’t have to be frustrating. Take care in knowing that if your child will only eat chicken nuggets or only wants to play and refuses to eat whatever is for dinner, you are certainly not alone. At some point in parenting, many parents are faced with the worry about what their children eat or don’t eat. The good news is that the majority of kids do in fact get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the duration of the week. And better news yet is that until your child’s food preferences begin mature, there are some great tips available to avoid mealtime battles.
- Show Respect
If your child isn’t hungry, force them to eat. And to the contrary, don’t bribe or force the to eat certain foods or clean their plate. This is a sure-fire way to ignite an unnecessary power struggle over food. Not to mention the fact that your child may come to associate mealtime with frustration thus becoming less sensitive to learning and understanding their own hunger and fullness cues. Start with serving your child small portions in order to avoid overwhelming your child and the allow the to speak up independently if they would like more.
- Start and Stick to a Routine
With our already hectic lives, starting, let alone sticking to a routine can be incredibly hard to do. But, it’s invaluably important. Be sure to try and serve meals and snacks at roughly the same times every day. You can provide milk or 100% juice with the meal or snack, but permit water only between meals and snacks. When you allow your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day you are decreasing their appetite for important meals later on.
- Be Patient
Younger children tend to touch and explore new foods before taking that first bite. Be sure to be patient and allow this! Your child may need repeated exposure to new foods before they take the first bite and encourage them by talking about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods.
Make a fruit or veggie snack plate served with a yummy dip. Or try cutting foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Even offer up silly nights like “Breakfast for Dinner” night. Have fun with food and your child will follow suit!
When grocery shopping, involve your child in helping to select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. And encourage them to pick their favorites! And don’t cave if they ask for something you don’t want them to eat at home. At home, ask your child to help you rinse veggies and fruits, stir batters and sauces or even set the table.
- Set a good example
Plain and simple. When you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is far more likely to do so as well.
- Get Creative
When you start to get creative, you can add “secret” ingredients to boost the nutritional value of whatever you are making your child. Finely chop broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauces, top cereal with yummy fruit slices, or even mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
Distractions can quickly lead to your child losing interest in their meal. Be sure to turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during mealtime to encourage your child to focus on eating.
At any time you become concerned that your child’s picky eating is compromising their growth or development, be sure to consult your child’s physician. Additionally, try to monitor the various types and amounts of food that your child eats for a period of three days. It may help you to see the bigger picture of your child’s diet to help ease your worries. And if you do plan a visit to your child’s doctor a food log can better assist them to determine any problems. And be easy on yourself, your child’s eating habits will not change overnight, however it is the small steps that you take that can assist your child in gaining a lifetime of healthy eating.