If you have kids, keep reading! This could be life changing for you.
Kids nutrition doesn’t have to be frustrating. We get it – kids may refuse the food you prepared specially for them, their refusal makes you worried about their nutrition, and your kid is choosing all of the “wrong” foods.
If nutrition and healthy eating is always a topic of conversation, and especially a sore one, you’re not alone! Many parents constantly worry about what their kid eats. And their pickiness is more than likely short-term. Keep reading on for some of our top tips on how to manage a picky eater at home.
Respect your child’s appetite
One of the most important things of managing your picky eaters at home is not forcing meals or snacks. By forcing food, your kid is likely to become less sensitive to their own hunger and fullness cues, something that is integral to learning all about healthy eating as a child! Forcing meals and snacks may also associate mealtime with frustration, confrontation, and anxiety, all negative feelings around the dinner table.
Don’t bribe your child to eat
Similar to the reasons above, bribing your child to eat foods is also a no-no. Bribing your child can associate certain foods as good-feeling, other food as bad-feeling, and in general bring negativity around the table. This can bring tension, and in the long-term, lead to negative outcomes like eating disorders or disordered eating. Not bribing your child includes bribes around vegetables, fruit, etc.
Stick to a routine
Kids are all about routines. Serving meals and snacks around the same time each day is crucial to management of picky eating! By having your child on a schedule, they’re likely to not be surprised and be more adventurous when the time to eat comes. If your child chooses not to eat a meal due to lack of hunger or a lack of desire to try a certain food, remember, don’t force them! You can offer a snack to provide them with the opportunity to eat a nourishing food and support their health. If your child is consistently refusing meals, you might consider reflecting on their snack intake. Many times, kids fill up on snacks and are not even hungry for dinner!
Don’t become an a la carte chef
Preparing separate meals on demand for your child can actually promote picky eating, not dissuade it! Encourage your child to sit at the table with the family during designated mealtime. Even if they don’t want to eat, this can provide a satisfying and positive experience.
Creating meals a la carte for your child can also add more stress, frustration, and anxiety into your routine. Instead of creating one meal, you’ve doubled the work on your plate.
Be patient with new foods
Enjoyment of new foods takes time. Think of the time anyone tries a new food. You touch and smell it, (and maybe even chew it awkwardly). This is the same for kids, and they may even spit part of it out and put it back in! It takes repeated exposure to try new foods in order to officially have it integrated into your routine.
Encourage your child in general around new food by pointing out the color, shape, and texture of food. Do your best to not bring up taste. Let them decide! Serve new foods next to your child’s favorite foods.
Make food fun
Serve new foods, like veggies, with a favorite condiment, dip, or sauce. You can also try cutting new foods into fun shapes, or try other shapes of the foods in general. For example, some kids may prefer carrots in a circle shape, as purchased, versus a long rectangle. You can even include your kid along with you to make fun shapes with food. Serve a variety of brightly colored food and give your child the opportunity to explore!
Get your kid to chip in
Bring your child grocery shopping with you. Let them select foods that look and sound good to them, including fruits and vegetables. Allowing them to choose their own foods will embrace a positive relationship with food. At home, have your child help you to rinse and prepare veggies, if able.
Set a good example
Eat a variety of nourishing foods around your child. Don’t put foods into certain categories like “good” and “bad.” If your child sees restriction and an unhealthy mindset around foods, they’ll likely mimic you.
Distractions, such as tv, iPads, or other electronics, can take the focus away from eating. Have your meal time be a special place where food is the focus. If your child watches tv while eating, they likely are also seeing commercials promoting sugary and less nourishing food!
Desserts shouldn’t be used as a reward
By reserving desserts as a reward-only food item, it sets the example that dessert is one of the best foods. This may increase your child’s desire for desserts. It also places foods into categories like “healthy” and “unhealthy,” which sets your child up for a poor relationship with food. Refine dessert time – you can select a couple nights a week as dessert nights, for example.
Keep trying your best
No matter what, keep reminding yourself that your child’s eating habits will take time to evolve and adapt. Their taste buds and wiliness to eat new foods is also not linear, their preferences may go back and forth! Do your best to keep trying, encouraging, and not forcing.
Like we previously mentioned, exhibiting positive behavior is crucial in your child’s eating habits. Choose a variety of foods that are nourishing for your own body. Pure Plates can help you to do so. We offer a variety of foods that meet all dietary preferences and can help you to show your child what healthy eating looks like. Maybe your child will even want a bite!
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