Kids undergo a lot of change in their early years as they are exposed to new experiences.
This can be a lot to handle for a young mind, leading a child to become very particular about the things they do and do not like — especially when it comes to food.
Food is a huge part of our everyday lives. When your child starts developing picky eating habits, this can not only be disruptive to your routine but also make it difficult to get your child their daily recommended servings of various food groups.
You may find yourself becoming frustrating with your picky eater, but it is important to remember that this is a normal and common experience for children to go through. The key to overcoming picky eating habits is to figure out what makes your child dislike a certain food and find creative ways around this dislike.
Without further ado, here are 8 strategies to help make your mealtimes better when dealing with a picky eater.
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1. Keep Your Cool
Children learn from the behavior of adults around them. When you lose your cool trying to convince your kid to eat, this can inadvertently influence them to act similarly when they don’t get their way.
As such, the first and most crucial strategy for dealing with a picky eater is to remain calm.
Remind yourself that this situation can be stressful for your child as well. They may not understand why they do not like a certain food and being forced to eat it may cause them distress.
Instead, you should try to calmly have a conversation with your child about why they do not want to eat. Follow this up by kindly reminding them that eating their whole meal is good table manners and that if they finish their meal, you will be very happy and proud of them.
This kind of positive reinforcement and calm attitude can help the situation to go more smoothly — as well as show your child that dramatics are not required to get what you want.
2. Find a Way “IN”
Calling a child a picky eater inherently implies that they have favorite foods they would prefer as well.
For many parents, going through the picky eater stage is just a normal part of the process and something that must be waited out. Your child’s palette will develop more over time and their picky eating habits will subside.
However, in the meantime, you still need clever ways to ensure your child is getting the proper vitamins and nutrients they need. The key is to find a vessel that your child finds appealing and use it to re-introduce foods they have grown an aversion to.
For example, let’s say you have a picky eater who hates vegetables but loves fruit smoothies. Fruits have much more sweet and potent flavors than vegetables, allowing them to cover up the taste of veggies when blended together. Use this to work in a daily serving of vegetables under the guise of a fruity treat.
3. Overcome Color With Creativity
Color tends to play a big role in what kids do or do not want to eat.
We’ve all heard of the kid that eats “only white and yellow foods” and nothing else. This can make it difficult to convince them to eat other foods, as they immediately become stubborn if the food is not the right color. Luckily, there are many supplemental ingredients available nowadays that can help, such as organic dried fruits.
You can add organic dried fruits to make the dishes look more colorful and to give your child an additional vitamin source. Plus, this can help you convince your child to explore new colors of foods.
4. Focus on Flavor
If flavor is the main issue for your picky eater, focus on which flavors they prefer.
Many children are not keen on too many spices when they are younger, leading them to prefer blander foods like plain chicken or potatoes. To address this, allow them to try various foods without spices to help identify which natural flavors they are inclined to.
Once you have uncovered their preferred flavors, you can find ways to incorporate these flavors into every meal. From here you can slowly introduce them to additional ingredients, like spices and sauces, and find the add-ins they love to eat.
5. Don’t Go to War at the Dinner Table
If dinnertime has become a time of high stress and agitation, it’s time to reconsider your approach.
Stress can affect a person’s appetite, regardless of whether they are young or old. As a result, going to war at the dinner table ultimately works against you, as the stress may cause your child to lose their appetite and refuse to eat altogether.
Your child will look for ways to challenge you — this is a normal and natural part of parenthood.
However, rather than challenging them back, the key is often to not give your attention to negative behavior. While you always want to make sure your child is eating enough in the day, sometimes the best solution is to let them face the consequences of not eating the food they are offered.
6. Don’t Make Food a Reward
It can be very tempting to use a child’s favorite foods as a reward for various things — be it doing the chores, getting good grades, or learning new skills.
Although food can be a huge motivator, you should avoid using it as a reward too often. This can cause your child to develop poor dietary habits in which they both reward and punish themselves with food.
Your child needs to learn to see food as a necessity, not an optional reward. When you successfully instill the idea that food is essential, it can be easier to overcome picky eating habits than if your child views food as something trivial.
7. Variety is the Spice of Life
If you are having trouble getting your child to eat the usual meals and snacks you make, it may be time to mix up your menu and add in some new options.
For some children, the root cause of their picky eating may simply be that they have not yet found the foods they truly love. As such, it is important to give your child the chance to try new things if they want to whenever you can.
It can also be advantageous to include your child in this process, as they are much more likely to eat something they picked out themselves. Next time you are at the store, show your child a selection of healthy foods and tell them that they get to pick out what they want to try.
8. Offer Some Choice
Sometimes, the best way to get a child to eat is to give them a choice between two meal or snack options.
Rather than telling them they only have one food option that they have to eat, allowing them to choose between a couple of different options gives your child a greater feeling of control and independence.
As a result, your child is more likely to eat the food they chose because it felt like their choice rather than yours. This can also help teach your child good decision-making skills when it comes to foods, as they will learn what makes them feel full and satisfied on their own.
Make Meal-time Fun again
If you are dealing with a picky eater, you are not alone.
Many parents and families go through the picky eating stage with children and it can certainly be a frustrating time for everyone involved. However, all is not lost — with the above strategies, you can help build healthier habits for your child and find the foods they love to eat.
Remember that you want to foster a positive relationship between your child and food, so always maintain a calm attitude and remind your child that food is a blessing, not a curse. Have patience as they figure out what they do and do not like.
After all, we were all picky eaters at one point or another.
This Post was written by Isabella Adams
Isabella is an experienced nutritionist and a passionate freelance writer. She uses her knowledge and experience to write about trending nutrition topics and develop a healthy and joyous relationship with food and the body. Her tips help to make healthier lifestyle choices.