So far two out of three children were picky eaters. Yes, you read that right…they “were.” I want to share a few things that helped my kids have a love for all sorts of foods. My children have very diverse palates from beans to quinoa to broccoli. I have been surprised to hear them actually request broccoli for meals. Okay, so let’s dig in. I hope at least one of these tips helps you get your kids on the path to diverse eating.
Be a good example
Like nearly everything in parenting being a good example for your children is the best starting point. Behave like you want your children to behave. Children actually will follow what you do more than listening to what you say. If you want your children to try new things, eat diverse foods, or eat healthily then you should be doing these things. This is such a simple first step but makes such a big impact.
Let children help cook
I bought a set of knives nearly identical to this set. These knives will cut soft food but take some effort to cut hard foods. Perfect for kids because it would be difficult for them to hurt themselves.
I taught my kids how to use the knives as if they were sharp knives. Teaching proper knife safety is very important. My kids love to cook with me. Once they know I’m about to cook they come running in the kitchen asking to help. I give both my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old various tasks like cutting soft foods like tomatoes, sprinkling seasoning, pouring ingredients, or mixing foods.
Allowing kids to help with cooking teaches them about cooking, teaches them to help, and gives them a sense of accomplishment. They are much more likely to eat the food that they helped make. They will be proud of what they accomplished and they will at least give the food a try!
Encourage new foods and do it often
One of our food mottos in our house is “It’s good to try new things.” We say this often when we are introducing a new food. I gave my daughter lasagna for the “first time,” pretty sure she has had it before but she didn’t remember. Since she didn’t remember she was a bit apprehensive and so I told her “It’s good to try new things. Maybe you will like it, but you will never know unless you try.” She tried it and liked it!
If it’s a new food my 2-year-old is trying, he is much more stubborn about trying something new. In our house you need to try it; just one bite. If they like it great! If not, I don’t make them eat anymore, but I offer it over and over again. I don’t offer it every day but usually multiple times a week and just make them try the one bite. I will offer the food in different ways with different foods, in different foods, or with different seasonings.
They only ever are encouraged to take one bite to try it….because “It’s good to try new things.” Most of the time they will start liking it. It’s much like how I’m sure your taste buds have changed over time. Not liking a particular food, but after a few years you try it and you like it. Kids are the same way, but for most foods, they end up liking it after trying it again after weeks or months.
Make it a fun big deal if they try something new. Dance, sing, shout!!! Make it a little party!!! It’s a great lesson for kids to know that trying something new is a good thing, even if they don’t like it. They faced their fear and tried it! Avoid bribing them with other foods they like because that will start a whole other problem with food. All you need is your voice. Encourage them and praise them.
Eat as a family without distractions
Eating as a family away from the TV, for example allows them to focus on their food and not get into the habit of eating too much. There have been studies that show that people actually eat more than they should when distracted with TV.
Eating as a family together can bring the family closer together and keep the focus on family and food. Making mealtimes a happy time for children is extremely important so that trying new things, and the feelings surrounding food are healthy ones and not stressful ones.
Listen to their body
This tip is harder to do, it is one that I knew to be important but honestly is hard to implement. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to finish the food on my plate. Naturally, that is what I would want my children to do because I don’t want them to waste food. Trust your child when they say they are full. Don’t force them to eat anymore. When you force them to finish their food you are teaching them not to listen to their body’s cues telling them they are full. This is extremely important for healthy food relationships as they grow up into adulthood.
You can avoid food waste by giving them very small portions, I allow my children to have as many servings as they want after finishing the serving on their plate. If my kids are full, I put their food away and save it for later. They can eat it for a snack or eat it when they say they are hungry again.
Working with picky eaters takes lots of patience and it takes time. Try not to get discouraged. Keep trying and stay positive. If you feel like nothing is working please don’t hesitate to go to your doctor or a registered dietician. They can make sure there aren’t any underlying conditions. They can also help to give you other suggestions to help your picky eater.
Do you have a picky eater? What have you done that helps your picky eater? Which one of these tips do you plan to try?
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