Have you had trouble dealing with picky eaters in your household? Perhaps you were a picky eater once and want to be prepared in case your little newcomer turns out to be one as well. After all, blood is thicker than water.
Polls tell us that 50% of parents think that their preschoolers are picky. If children’s nutrition is a sensitive issue in your house, you most certainly are not alone.
However, most children get a variety of nutrients in their diets. To prevent mealtime battles, consider using some of these tips on how to deal with picky eaters. They will help you manage until your child develops healthy food preferences.
1. Respect Their Appetite
If your kiddo is not hungry, don’t force them to eat. Also, bribing them into eating particular dishes or cleaning their plate isn’t a good idea either. That way, you might end up igniting a power struggle over lunch.
Moreover, your child might start associating mealtimes with frustration and anxiety. They could also become less sensitive to their own hunger cues.
Serving smaller portions won’t overwhelm them. By doing so, you’ll give them a chance to ask for more on their own.
2. Set a Routine and Stick to It
Meals should be served at approximately the same times every day. That goes for snacks, as well. In case the little one skips a meal, they can make up for it by eating a nutritious snack at the designed time.
Give them water between meals and snacks. You can serve 100% juice or milk with their food. Their appetite might decrease if they fill up on snacks, milk, or juice throughout the day.
3. Don’t Cave in to Their Whims
You might have been preparing a separate meal for your kid whenever they refuse to eat what you cooked initially. By doing so, you are only promoting picky eating.
Introducing new foods can be especially frustrating for the parents. When your kiddo touches or smells new foods, takes a tiny bite only to spit it out, it’s important to exercise patience. It’s best to expose the new foods to them repeatedly before they take the first bite.
You can try encouraging them by talking about the texture, aroma, shape, and color of the dish. Avoid talking about the taste at first. You can also try serving new dishes alongside their favorite ones.
You can continue offering them healthy meals until they become familiar, or perhaps even liked. The good news is – most kids outgrow their pickiness within a year.
5. Make it Fun
Veggies, particularly broccoli, are usually a big nuisance for the little ones. Try to sway your child by serving dreaded vegetables with a well-liked dip or sauce. Use cookie cutters to cut the food into fun shapes.
Serve breakfast dishes at dinner time. Children love brightly colored food. Introducing it will make every meal more fun.
6. Let Your Child Help You
You shouldn’t buy anything that you don’t want your kiddo to eat, but you can recruit them to assist you in grocery shopping. Let them choose among a selection of fruits, veggies, and other healthy cooking ingredients. When it’s time to cook, encourage them to help you stir batter, rinse vegetables, or set the table.
7. Be a Good Role Model
If you display healthy eating habits, the little one is more likely to emulate them. Place a high chair near the dinning table and feed your child at the same time when the rest of the family is eating.
8. Minimize Distractions
Turn off the TV, smartphone, tablets, or any other gadgets that might distract them from dinner. Don’t let them be enchanted by adds. Advertisements might spark a craving for junk food and sweets.
Instead, try to make them mindful. Lead them to think about feelings of hunger and fullness as that might induce positive changes in their eating habits. Ask them about how they are feeling, instead of imploring them to take a few more bites.
It will help them feel more in tune with feelings related to food. Do keep in mind that they have a point of satiety. It’s essential not to confuse unwillingness and pickiness with actual fullness.
9. Be Creative
Add a few slices of fruit to the cereal bowl, mix grated carrots and zucchini into soups and casseroles, add green peppers or chopped broccoli to pasta sauce.
10. Don’t Reward them with Dessert
If you offer dessert after mealtime, they will grow accustomed to thinking that it’s the best part of a meal. Ideally, you would want to avoid increasing their desire for sweets. Designate two days a week on which you’ll have dessert night.
The rest of the week – no dessert! Unless of course, you redefine dessert as something healthy, like fruit or yogurt. Experts say that other forms of reward work better than dessert. A word of encouragement and praise can do wonders.
Pencils, smaller toys, and stickers make good rewards as well. You can also allow them to choose a game to play after mealtime or extend their playtime.
11. Don’t Forget Who Is in Charge
Remember that you are in control because children can be very persuasive. It’s best for the whole family to eat the same dish, and not indulge picky eaters by preparing a separate meal for them.
12. Hire a Specialist
Although picky eating is not uncommon with kids, you should pay attention to some warning signs that may indicate that there is something more serious going on under the surface. Sometimes parenting advice on how to deal with picky eaters might not be what you need, but a specialist.
Contact your doctor if you notice any of these red flags:
- Crying when eating, indicating pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Aggression, anxiety, repetitive behaviors or sensory reactivity, which can be signs of autism
- Difficulty chewing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Abnormally slow growth and development
Many parents struggle with their kid’s eating habits – you are not alone. The process can be difficult, so remember to keep your calm. With the right approach, you will help your kiddo develop healthy eating habits which they will nourish throughout their whole life.