Tips and tricks for helping out the picky eater in your home
Sometimes kids just won't touch a single piece of food that's put in front of them. It could be that they will not take a second look at a fruit or vegetable or they reject anything that doesn't come out of a bag with a funny character on it. It's a learning process trying to figure out what works and what doesn't work in terms of getting kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It's about letting go of control and encouraging healthy eating habits. Try these top tips to try and help overcome picky eating!
Sit down and have a meal together as a family every night ( if possible!)- Sitting down with your kids and eating with them as a family as frequently as you can is the most important and often overlooked contributing factor to overcome picky eating. There are plenty of studies proving positive correlation between regular family dinners and increased vocabulary, academic performance and even the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables in children. Kids learn best from modeled behavior, they need to watch you eat and enjoy different foods to learn how to do the same!
Make a mealtime schedule + stick to it- Set designated times for meals and snacks and stick to a plan. This helps regulate kids' appetite and sets a peaceful rhythm in the home around meals. Kids like to know what to expect, be sure when mealtime is over, the food is gone. This does wonders for kids who take hours on end eating one serving of food. A good meal time is anywhere between 20-30 minutes. In many social situations like school lunch, mealtimes are usually around this amount of time.
Expose them to a wide variety of foods- Exposure to a large variety of food tastes and
textures is crucial for future food acceptance, especially within the first year of life. If the goal is to have your children eating more foods and being okay with trying new ones, how else do you expect them to get there without providing opportunities to try, see and learn about foods? Everyday, try to expose them to a new food type, vegetable, fruit or texture. For textures think finely chopped, fork mashed, crispy foods, or chewy foods. Also try talking about the foods on the plate differently, talk about all the colors on the plate and how it's important to eat all the colors of the rainbow to make our bodies strong. Teaching them about the food on their plate is also helpful. Tell them where it comes from and what it does for the body. For example "carrots make your eyes super strong, salmon comes from fish in the sea and makes your brain grow!"
Get kids involved with cooking + meal prep- Being involved in the cooking and food preparation helps prepare them for the meal to come and eliminate the element of surprise. They can be the ones to help you chop and mix bananas into their yogurt instead of being surprised at the chunk in their mouth. Cooking with kids can be challenging, but it also can be a lot of fun! They feel more in control, which is so important. They are also willing to try new things if they help assemble it. Letting them get their hands on the food prior to eating will increase their chances of putting it in their mouth.
Accepting where your child is on this journey- This is by far the hardest for parents. Do your
best to accept your child for where they are along their journey to enjoy a wide variety of foods.
You can't force them to be anywhere that they are not. Fortunately though, you can be the single most important contributing factor to helping them move forward! It may take longer than you think and you may not reach all the goals you have set. But continuing to encourage and support them, and taking baby steps, will help them in the long run!
Hopefully using these silly simple steps, you can start enjoying mealtimes with your children
again, and hopefully your kids will learn to eat new and healthy foods along the way!