Picky eating can be frustrating for many parents, and can cause tension between the parent and child that ultimately doesn’t help the problem. Rather than everyone being frustrated and dreading meal time, there are things to try to make the experience better overall. If you are concerned that a child doesn’t seem to be growing or getting enough nutrients to be healthy, contact their pediatrician. In the meantime, here are some things to consider to manage picky eating:
Have the child be more involved in the meal process – from picking out food at the grocery store to cooking and serving the meal (within age appropriate safety limits) if a child feels more engaged in the process they may be more likely to eat the food.
Choices. Especially when they are young, giving choices can be a great way to encourage positive behavior. Make sure the choices are things you are ok with – not “do you want an apple or chocolate cake”, but perhaps more like “would you like carrot sticks or grapes for your snack today?” They will feel more empowered and again more likely to eat what they chose rather than if it was “forced”.
Eat together as a family. Meal times are often important bonding times for the whole family. Also, make sure everyone is eating the same thing. Giving your child a specific different meal can encourage picky eating, as it says they don’t have to try new things.
On that note, if they try something and don’t like it, wait a week or two and introduce it again. Tastes change!
Avoid rewards. Saying things like “no dessert unless you eat all your vegetables” can encourage unhealthy eating habits. However, fruits could be a dessert after dinner that is still healthy.
Don’t stress if a child doesn’t eat a lot one day. If they are truly not hungry, don’t force them to finish their plate. On the other hand, some days they will be extra hungry. On those days, offer healthy snacks instead of Cheetos. This can help them learn to listen to their bodies and eat when they’re hungry, not just because they’re bored or someone tells them to.
If you have a picky eater at home, see if some of these tricks can help them to branch out with their diets. Again, if there is a bigger health concern that their calories or nutrients are not enough to be healthy, talk with their doctor to make sure everything is on track.