Having trouble with your picky eater?
Here are some tips on how to get your child motivated about eating.
Eat meals together.
Sounds very obvious, but seriously – eat together. If you are feeding your child first and
then eating at a later time, reconsider it. Everyone should be seated together to have
their meals together. It encourages conversation and fosters a good food routine.
Take a cue from your child.
If your child is whizzing around and ignoring meal time, he may not be hungry yet. If he is irritable, fussy and all around cranky pants, that be a sign that he is hungry. Also, once a child starts to lose focus on food and stops eating, do not force the child to clear his plate. He is probably full, and you have to remember his stomach is super small, so his fills up quicker than an adult’s stomach does.
Kids are more capable than you think. Let them serve themselves.
If a child can hold a pencil, she can hold a fork or spoon. If a child can grab a shovel for
sand, she can serve herself. Let food be accessible to your children. Not only will
serving themselves give them a sense of independence, it will help smaller kiddos with
fine motor skills. Separate foods into various bowls and have serving spoons that they
can use. If you give them some control of the portions they eat, they will eat.
(Worried about washing lots of dishes after? Serve them in glass dishes that have snap
lids and store away leftovers.)
Food shopping is an experience, not a chore.
Remember when you were in the shopping cart with your parents? Look at food
shopping from the eyes of your child. Let him help you shop for the groceries. If he
is old enough to read, give him a copy of the shopping list and send him to grab the
items off the list. Ask her to choose a new or interesting looking vegetable or fruit she
has never eaten before. If you have never had it either, guess how much fun you will
have researching a recipe?! Let her help you choose what is for dinner.
No ifs, ands or bribes! (Whatsoever)
Imagine if you were rewarded with something fabulous every time you did something
you actually had to do on a daily basis to live. Like getting rewarded for brushing your
teeth. Sounds absurd, right? Well it is. Do not bribe your children with entertainment or,
worse yet, dessert, for eating their food. Children have to eat. It is a basic need for their
nutrition and growth. Bribing will only open up a can of worms you did not want to
open. Soon he will take those negotiations beyond the dinner table to bath time, sleep time, getting dressed in the morning… you get the point.
Offer new foods in small portions.
It takes about 6-7 times of tasting something before you like it. Keep this in mind with
your children. Surprising them with new foods and expecting them to like it off the bat is
crazy talk. Introduce new foods in small batches – a few tablespoons of whatever foods
you are introducing. Let them ask for more if they like it and continue to serve seconds
in the same portions. Do not overwhelm them with heaping portions because you are
excited they want seconds. Also, do not give up if they are not interested the first go
around. Bring new foods onto the table with favorites and create different combinations
each time you introduce it.
Offer smaller portions of food obsessions.
If your child will only have PB&J or plain pasta, do not worry about it. Food obsessions
generally do not last as long as you would think. Serve smaller portions of the foods they
are in love with, and make sure to get some bites of other things in as well.
No Special A la Carte Menu
Your child should not have a special food menu just for her (unless it is for dietary
restrictions). Everyone should be eating the same foods. You should not be slaving away
at two to three different meals for your family. It is exhausting for you AND expensive.
Mealtime is a time for everyone to connect and that also means sharing the same food.
Be a role model.
Do not preach to your children about making healthy choices if you are not doing so yourself. Children are sponges and will mimic food behaviors that they see in their homes. Create good, healthy food memories that they can model. Make it a priority to show your kids that you are also making healthy choices and creating healthy eating habits for yourself.
DON’T GIVE UP!
For the love of all that is good in the world, do not give up! Picky eating is a phase.
Children’s eating habits change as their palates change. We do not have the same taste
buds as we did as we were kids. Just remember to have fun in the kitchen with your
children and do not make every mealtime a battlefield.
Natalie Cruz is a former preschool teacher inspired by her students to create Coolinary Kitchen. She notice kids not only loved cooking, they were less reluctant to try fruits and veggies if they were the ones preparing them. Coolinary Kitchen is a kitchen consulting service offering cooking classes to children and food coaching to parents. Through oneon-one sessions, families are educated on healthy eating habits and given the tools to enjoy family time in the kitchen.