It is not uncommon in any family to have one or more children be picky about the foods they eat. We’re certain some of you have often wondered how your child is able to survive on a diet of macaroni and cheese day in and day out! Growing up, Joanie can recall many a lonely night at the dinner table staring down her veggies unable to leave the table until they were gone. Although this is not considered politically correct treatment for a picky eater today, many parents are often stumped with what to do. Here are some strategies that may help you:
Start early: Children form habits that make them picky eaters. Habits are hard to break. You are better off if you can prevent the habits from forming. At the very first signs of finicky behavior, explain to your child that it is not healthy to eat the same foods all the time. Serve a good variety of foods at meals, and encourage your young ones to taste new foods.
Include them: Children are more likely to eat something that they have helped make, so get your children involved in preparing meals. You can also take them shopping and teach them how to find and select foods. Involving them in making decisions reinforces that you care about their opinon and want to make things that they like. Never ask “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” offer choices like “Do you want broccoli or cauiflower for dinner?”.
Set Goals: Be realistic about setting goals. It is not realistic to try to force your child to eat a whole serving of food that they claim not to like. Instead start off with small expectations, like one bite of the new food, and work your way up from there.
Be consistent and firm: Use the same tactics at each and every meal. Put new foods on your child’s plate first. Remind your child of the goal and offer plenty of encouragement. Don’t give in to stubbornness. It may also work to try “Look mommy (or daddy) will try a bite with you.”
Praise: Even if it is just one nibble, congratulate your child. For a picky eater – this little nibble is a big deal. Ask them if they thought it was tasty. If the say “no”, tell them it may take a few bites to notice the delicious flavor or suggest maybe it would taste better with ketchup on it. The point being, don’t let them shutdown the thought that this food may actually taste good someday.
Be a good role model: It is plain and simple. You cannot expect to raise children that eat a good variety of foods if you do not. This fact goes for all adults who sit at the dinner table with your children.