Picky eaters. Every family has them. It’s common for young children to avoid certain foods. The reasons vary—taste, color, temperature, texture are just a few. Picky eating presents plenty of challenges at meal time, and it can get in the way of healthy eating. Luckily, many kids grow out of these habits and may even come to love these foods through repeated exposures. Here are our top eight tips to navigate picky eating!
- Involve kids in meals! If kids are involved with the preparation of a meal, they may be more interested in trying it. Depending on their age and ability, have them help with cooking by stirring or measuring ingredients. Even having them help set the table can be a fun way to get them involved.
- Make food fun: Try cutting the foods into fun shapes to make it look appealing. Make a forest out of broccoli and carrots or cut your fruits and vegetables into different shapes such as stars or hearts.
- Do not force kids to eat: Adults and children each have their own responsibilities when it comes to mealtime. It is the adult’s responsibility to provide the food, decide what will be served and where it will be served, but it is the child’s responsibility to decide to eat it and how much to eat.
- Try growing a garden! Growing a vegetable garden can be a great way to show kids where their food comes from, and if they help with growing the vegetables, they may be more likely to eat them or try new ones.
- Limit grazing: Eating snacks and drinking juice all day may leave a child feeling full when it comes time for a meal. Offer your child food at set times, every 2-3 hours, and have them seated at the table, not wandering around eating food. If they are thirsty between meal times, offer water.
- Be a role model! Kids notice your food habits, so model healthy eating behaviors. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, choose lean proteins and whole grains and drink water more often than sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit distractions at meal times: Make meal times a screen-free time where the only activity is eating. Turn off the TV and leave phones and other devices in another room. Encourage conversation and focusing on the meal in front of you.
- Be patient! It can take a child up to 10-15 times of tasting a new food for them to begin liking it. Keep meal times positive and enjoyable for all. Encourage positive conversation and quality family time.