Picky eating is a complaint many parents have. It can be frustrating and disappointing. At a certain stage in their life, this is normal. A child who eats anything and everything is rare. Most kids find foods, especially vegetables and foreign dishes, unpalatable. They will have trouble eating and some parents may struggle with handling this behavior. You may be a little too concerned if you notice that your child is not gaining weight because of this habit. Do not be too worried – most kids will eventually outgrow this behavior. If this bothers you too much or at a loss on how to deal with picky eaters, you can consult a professional dietician to help you out.
There are also some ways you can try at home to help your kid overcome this and ensure healthy growth. It may take time before our taste buds adapt to new foods. Adults experience that. Kids may take 10 or more tries. Kids may be selective to food groups in general. Understanding why your child is fussy about food is one of the main keys on how to help picky eaters.
Here are some strategies you can incorporate at home to help your picky kid:
Don’t force foods on your child
It is every parent’s goal to have a healthy child. You want your child to eat as many vegetables as possible, or embrace every level of the food pyramid. However, forcing them to eat will not have a positive result. It can distress both you and your child and they can build up negative connections. The best way to let your child finish their food is to just let them sit at the table until their plate is clean. There is no need to start an argument over every vegetable, especially if your pediatrician says your child is healthy and still eating other healthy foods.
Set snack and meal times
Having regular meal and snack times is a good way to address behavioral changes among young kids. Remember that children are very smart. If they skip a meal and request a snack a few minutes later, they are likely to continue this habit. Make them aware that snacks and meals are only given at a certain time. This mindset allows kids to actually be hungry when it’s time for dinner. Seated family meals are important because they set an example for your child. They might be so interested in what you’re eating that they will begin to enjoy these meals. Also, it creates strong family bonds, so try to incorporate family meals whenever possible.
Introduce foods through different ways of cooking
Just because your child says no to broccoli doesn’t mean that it must be ticked off the grocery list forever. While they may not like them plain, they may find other variations delicious. You can spice it up by serving them in different forms. Try making it into a soup, puree, or salad seasoned with spices and olive oil. It also helps to alternate the kinds of foods that are served to avoid monotony.
Mixing tried-and-tested favorites with a new food item may also help with their eating habits. If iceberg salad is one of your kids’ favorites, mix it with some leaves of lettuce and add some sauce on the side. Some kids are more likely to eat raw vegetables if it comes with their favorite dip.
Let them choose their food
Another way to help picky eaters is to give your child autonomy. Kids like to assert their independence. Rather than turning meals into a power struggle, let them make their own decisions. Pressuring or bargaining with them to eat a certain food may end with them avoiding that food for life. Instead, explain how eating such food is good for them.
Children who have authority in choosing what to eat are more likely to eat more. Be creative. Plant a garden in the backyard. Teach them about the process from the start. This will also make them more willing to eat what they created and be involved in the preparation process. One tip is to choose one new item each week and let your child decide on three recipes that include that ingredient.
Avoid making a second meal
If your picky kid doesn’t like what is served on the table, do not give in and serve another meal. It sets a bad example and will not make the child learn to try something new. Instead provide a second option, like a salad and yogurt. Or a bowl of cereal when they really cannot stomach what is served for dinner. This takes the pressure off both you and your child knowing that there are alternatives.
Remember that picky eating is part of a child’s development. So don’t panic when your child says no to a certain food. Calmly explain to them the benefits of eating healthy and don’t give up on them. Foods are meant to be enjoyed. Most importantly, be a role model – lead the way with what you set on your plate.
Learn more about how to deal with picky eaters through Creative Learning Academy. Your kids will be guided to a better adult life.