Many parents worry about what their children eat and don’t eat. Picky eating habits are common among toddlers, preschoolers, as well as children in grade school. A child that is a picky eater can often make mealtimes frustrating for everyone. Here are a few ways on how to expand your child’s palate and provide them with life-long healthy eating habits.
1. Practice what you preach.
The best way to influence children is to set a good example. You can’t expect them to eat broccoli if you won’t touch it. Create a positive experience enjoying healthy foods together. Be enthusiastic about your healthy food choices.
2. Make healthy foods available.
As long as healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables are around, your child will be able to learn to like and choose them!
3. Don’t force feed – patience and positivity is the key!
Forcing your child to eat a food they don’t want is not beneficial in the long run. They will end up disliking both the food and mealtime. Instead, make less of a fuss when your child refuses a food. The less of an issue you make of it now, the less likely your child is to reject the food next time. Wait a little bit, and try again another day. Sometimes you may have to introduce the food several times before your child may accept it. Stay patient and positive!
4. Don’t be a short-order cook.
Everyone should get the same meal. Make sure to plan dinner appropriately for best results. Introduce only one new food at a time, and make sure there is at least one healthy thing on the table your child already likes and will fill up on.
5. Get them involved.
Including your child in grocery shopping or food preparation will allow them to feel some ownership over the meal and in turn they will be more likely to eat it.
6. Don’t bribe them with dessert.
Saying something such as “if you eat all your carrots, you can have a cookie” is not a good idea. Using dessert as a reward is short-sighted, and can backfire in the long run. This may teach your child to value treats more than other foods.
Adapted by Rebecca Ditkoff, Registered Dietitian, SBH Health System