Picture this, you have prepared a dinner for your family filled with all the healthy foods you know are good for their growing bodies; a protein, whole grain, vegetable or fruit, and a source of dairy. Everyone is sitting around the table happily eating, loving every bite. Does this sound familiar? For many families, the answer is a resounding “no way!” Instead you hear the cries of “I don’t like that”, “I don’t eat that”, “that looks gross”, and lots of frustration all around. If this rings a little closer to home, you are not alone! Picky eaters are very common among growing kids, so don’t lose hope. Use these tips to make meal time the picturesque setting it can be!
- First things first, don’t be a short order cook. Prepare what you choose for your family and have everyone eat the same meal.
- Be patient. Research shows a child may need to see a food on their plate as many as 20 times before they will attempt even one bite. Don’t rush the process. Forcing your child to finish food often can have long term consequences. Instead, be consistent in offering all foods you have prepared and encourage them to try ‘just one bite’.
- Keep it small. If your child does not like lima beans, putting a large serving on their plate will not make them more willing to try them. Typically it will only cause them to throw on the brakes! Offer a very small serving such 3-4 lima beans only. Smaller portions are less overwhelming for kids and will encourage them to give new foods a try.
- Be creative. Although it may sound surprising, some kids don’t like cooked carrots but instead will eat them raw. Or maybe they prefer “french cut” green beans instead of “whole” green beans. Get creative and offer all foods in many different styles to see which your child likes best.
- Always celebrate small wins! It may seem insignificant to us, but even taking one bite of a new food can be HUGE to our kids. Make it a fun celebration when your child tries a new food. It may just be one bite this time, but as time goes on you are one bite farther away from picky eating!
If you start with these few simple tips, you will be closer to the meal time of your dreams before you know it. Just remember to be consistent and keep it fun! Food is to be enjoyed and explored together as a family. As I always say, “No one likes everything, but there is no one that doesn’t like anything!” Happy eating!