Let’s face it – it’s getting more and more difficult to be a “healthy parent” these days, and things get even worse when kids are picky eaters. It has caused parents everywhere to become frustrated beyond words three times a day (plus snack time, of course).
On top of this, we all know how hard it is to implement the “I am the parent and you are the child” mentality. Parenthood has evolved into a world of give-and-take, and especially in the world of food, “because I told you so” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.
So what can you do about your picky eater? Here are 10 tips that could work in expanding your child’s flavor tolerance.
- Let them have a choice: Pick what you’re making for a meal – maybe it’s pasta, a sandwich, or salad. Stick to that, and make sure your kids know you are sticking to that, but from there you can give them a choice so they’ll be more inclined to eat. If you with pasta, ask them if they want sauce or no sauce. Going with a sandwich? Do they want turkey or ham? If you let them customize, they’ll take more ownership of their meal because they had a say in what they eat – even though you still get a chance to introduce something new and avoid a picky diet.
- Give your child a reward: Even as adults we like to treat ourselves to our favorite foods. Don’t restrict your child just because they have a strong preference. Give your child a new healthy food you want them to try, and tell them they can have some of their favorite after they have a substantial amount of the new food. If they like it, use it to prove your point. This works best when your kid lives off snacks and easily-prepared food, as you can give them a small amount after a bigger serving of whatever you’re trying to introduce to them.
- Make new foods a challenge: Kids gravitate to what to what they know and love, but they also love adventure. Tell them you’re going to play a game for the week: you want them to try as many new foods as possible. Make it fun and exciting!
- Have them help out: This will work best for kids that are old enough to trust in the kitchen by your side. Giving your kids simple tasks in the cooking process gets them involved in making the meal. Cracking eggs, mixing in a bowl, or putting ingredients together are all simple tasks for them. They will love it! By the time the new food is prepared, they’ll be ready to give it a try because they had a role in it. Give them something to tell their preschool teacher about the next day.
- “Don’t you want to eat what we’re eating?” With everyone at the table having the same dish, the dinner process for youngsters becomes a way to emulate the grown-ups. Show them you enjoy your salad, grilled chicken, and mashed potatoes. Remember, your kids look up to you – give them a positive role model at the dinner table!
- Start early: The later you try to introduce your child to a new or healthy food, the more reluctant or set in their ways they will be. Don’t delay, start instilling these habits earlier in a child’s life so they can be open to trying new foods.
- Cold turkey is not the way to go. A kid’s favorite food is their favorite food for a reason. Cutting them off completely from that typically doesn’t go over well. Depending on the food, bringing it in a few times a week isn’t the worst thing, especially if you follow that give-and-take strategy.
- Make a meal chart: This works best for kids old enough to read, but if you have the time (and willpower to stick to one), make a weekly meal chart and put it out for your child to see. That way, there’s no debate or question about what’s for dinner. Plus, if you put their favorite food on that chart, they’ll know they’ll be able to eat it soon and be less fussy when a new dish is at the table.
- “Oh no! We’re all out!”: Your kid wants spaghetti but they’re had spaghetti every dinner for the past two weeks? Don’t buy it for a while. Tell them there’s none left, but they should try this new food – assure them that “if you love spaghetti then you’ll love this.” Eventually, being hungry will overtake being headstrong, and they will eat.
- Be Patient: Stand your ground – remember, you are the parent. But sometimes it can take time, and it can be a struggle. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be writing this post! Very little in parenting happens overnight. Be consistent and your kid will catch on. Soon enough, the picky eater days will be gone and your child will be eating a variety of new and healthy foods.