Although it’s normal for kids to be picky eaters, that doesn’t make it any easier for parents. Being patient helps, but there are additional ways to make mealtimes more pleasant. When it comes to picky eaters, sometimes you have to outsmart them! Parents are responsible for the what, when, and where of feedings. It’s up to the child to decide if, what, and how much he will eat. Respect your child’s food preferences, which will change over time – we all have foods don’t enjoy. Here are some top tips for your picky eater.
1. Have a Strategy
Approaching snacks and mealtimes with a strategy can help a great deal. It “arms” you, the parent, with a response to begging, not finishing food, and refusal to eat certain foods. Read on for some specifics on strategy.
2. Loosen the Control Grip
Unfortunately, parents often grab for more control when there’s a situation that needs “correcting” – whether it’s an overweight child or a picky eater. The problem with this, though, is that it may create an obsession with “forbidden” foods, or set your child up to make excuses to reward him or herself by eating comfort foods. In an era when more than half of Americans are overweight, we need to take special care not to set our kids up for a weight struggle later in life. So relax, and focus on teaching your child to listen to his or her body.
If your child refuses to eat what is served, do not get her something else to eat. It’s okay to have her wait until the next scheduled meal or snack to eat (no more than 2 to 3 hours later). Children are more likely to try a new or previously disliked item if it is served with a familiar or favorite food; however, don’t pressure your child to eat it. And don’t give up: children sometimes require 10 to 15 exposures to a food before they will eat it, so continue to serve foods your child refuses. Try serving an item different ways: if your child refuses cooked carrots, try serving raw carrot sticks. And take breaks – re-introduce a food that your child won’t eat in a couple of months; you might be surprised! Try to avoid using dessert or a treat as a reward for finishing a meal. Don’t coax, beg, bribe, force-feed, or play games to get your child to eat.
3. Plan Meals and Snacks
Establish regular meal and snack times: 3 meals and usually 3 snacks each day; toddlers and preschoolers need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours. Don’t offer anything besides water between meals and snacks – this allows your child to get hungry. Having meals planned and including snacks (so your child doesn’t have to beg for a snack every day, and you “give in” and let him/her eat junk food) may help a lot with picky eating. Kids tend to respond positively to routine.
4. Keep Foods Simple
Make foods as plain and easy-to-eat as possible. Casseroles are tempting because they are easy and inexpensive, but kids tend to shun “mixtures.” Offer foods separately rather than mixed up in a casserole, gravy or sauce, salad, or sandwich. You may find that simple, plain foods are actually easier to prepare in the end! Finger foods tend to be a big hit, like sandwiches, and vegetables and dip, sliced fruit, and simple pastas are often popular.
5. Hide the Veggies and Fruits
Fresh veggies and fruits can be whizzed in a blender with jarred spaghetti sauce, cheese dip, and pizza sauce. Speaking of pizza, mince up spinach or zucchini and sprinkle over pizza. Cover with veggie pepperoni and a moderate amount of cheese.
6. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Involve your child as much as possible in grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, and growing foods in your garden (which kids love!). Your child is more likely to eat and enjoy something he was involved in. Also, allow your child to make decisions when appropriate; occasionally offer him a choice between 2 foods, such as 1/2 of a banana or some grapes (cut in half due to risk of choking). Just make sure that each option is something healthy and acceptable. This helps the child feel like he or she has a “voice” in what is eaten, and also introduces them to variety that is a key to healthy eating.
7. Funny Food
Check the internet for fun ways to prepare food. You can make landscapes with rice or mashed potatoes as a background; cut fruit and cheese into shapes; and cut bread into shapes as well. There are so many things you can do to make food fun and beautiful to look at – and somehow, kids tend to like eating these fun landscapes!
8. Serve small portions
About 1 Tablespoon per year of your child’s age of each food offered. This will prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed and increase the likelihood she will eat it. If your child wants more, she can ask for seconds.
Offer a variety of nutritious foods at each meal. Always be sure to include at least one or two healthy items you know your child enjoys and will eat.
10. Make mealtimes pleasant and enjoyable
Eat together as often as possible, and set a good example regarding healthful eating and appropriate table manners. Try not to get upset or frustrated if your child refuses to eat; don’t allow mealtimes to become a battle.
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How to Outsmart Your Kids With Child Psychology
The Science of Picky Eaters – Nova Science Now
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Cool Road Trips for Families. Sign up to get holiday recipes, crafts and stress-less tips delivered right to your inbox. more >> …. Mind if I give it to your brother?” at which point, some inexplicable competitive urge kicks in, and the petulant child turns into a food-eating dynamo and polishes off everything on his plate. 7. Save room for dessert. I can’t lie: Ice cream often tastes better than anything on the planet. Life has its share of … Great ways to outsmart and distract! Very positive ideas.
Tell me: How do you feel about hiding vegetables? Do you have other tricks for dealing with picky eaters? Post them below. And visit Eat Healthy for kid-friendly recipes and tips for making food fast, fun, frugal, and eco-friendly …
With a little imagination and creativity you can get your picky eater to eat more and experiment with foods they normally would not have eaten. … Here’s a tip: blend vegetables into a puree and add to spaghetti sauce. … April 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm. I have cooked at a daycare for over 3 yrs now and something that I have found to work really well is encourage the picky eaters to take at least one bite of the undesired food. What happens then is after having taken one bite …