Kids can be notoriously picky about food. They’re tastes can change at the drop of a hat; they may like a certain food one day, but refuse it the next. Luckily, kids can eventually overcome this tendency by being repeatedly exposed to foods they initially reject. The best thing you can do is to provide plenty of healthy choices in a positive, relaxed environment so that mealtimes will be enjoyable for everyone. Here are some specific tips on how to handle a picky eater:
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods.
Get them Involved
Get children involved in the process. Children like to learn about food. Learning about food is something that children are naturally interested in because it involved multiple senses. So get your child involved in the food process wherever you can. Your child can watch food grow and help pick food. Let your child touch foods at different points in the preparation process. For example, at the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don’t buy anything that you don’t want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Provide juice or milk with the food, and offer water between meals and snacks. Making sure your child has set meal and snack times will help ensure she’s eating when she’s hungry and lessen the chance she’ll snack too much.
What to Say to Encourage Picky Eaters
- Choose phrases that help point out the sensory qualities of food, like, “This kiwi fruit is sweet like strawberry.” Or, “These radishes are very crunchy!” They encourage your child to try new foods.
- Avoid phrases that teach your child to eat for approval and love, like, “Eat that for me.” Or, “If you do not eat one more bite, I will be mad.” This can lead your child to have unhealthy behaviors, attitudes and beliefs about food and about themselves.
- Choose phrases that help your child recognize when he or she is full, like, “Is your stomach telling you that you’re full?” “Is your stomach still making its hungry growling noise?” “Has your tummy had enough?” These statements can help prevent overeating.
- Avoid phrases that encourage kids to ignore signs of fullness, like, “You’re such a big girl; you finished all your peas.” “Look at your sister. She all of her bananas.” Or, “You have to take one more bite before you leave the table.”
- Choose phrases that make your child feel like he or she is making the choices, like, “Do you like that?” “Which one is your favorite?” Or, “Everyone likes different foods, don’t they?” These statements shift the focus toward the taste of food rather than who was right.
- Avoid phrases that make some foods seem like a comfort, like, “Stop crying and I will give you a cookie.” Getting a food treat when upset teaches you child to eat to feel better. This can cause overeating.
Avoid phrases that make food seem like a reward or like they are better than other foods, such as, “No dessert until you eat your vegetables.” A better way to encourage your child to keep trying vegetables might be, “We can try these vegetables again another time. Next time would you like to eat them raw instead of cooked?”