Some kids are born picky eaters, and some children are unintentionally trained to eat only a narrow variety of foods. Don’t spend time fighting battles or wondering what you did wrong. Say bye-bye to picky eating by taking a few simple steps with your child, and begin introducing them to the big, beautiful world of food.
When I was little, my mom enthusiastically offered me “broccoli trees”, “rocket carrots” and “asparagus castles.” It didn’t take too long before I saw through her elevated cheerfulness, but as it turns out, she had the right idea.
Studies show that giving food a fun name really can motivate a child to try it, and it may even make them like it more. In our home, we call salad “strong food” because it gives us “super vitamins,” making bones and muscles more powerful. Children will absorb your own likes and dislikes, so try not to label foods as “good” or “bad.” Brussels sprouts can truly be delicious, and just because goat cheese makes me gag doesn’t mean my little guy won’t love it.
A rainbow salad formed into a happy face can be irresistible, and even though we don’t always have time for meal masterpieces, we can still make food look as tantalizing as possible. Chopping vegetables into small pieces and arranging them into small, colorful piles on a plate can be appealing, and it also keeps everything separate. (We know how horrifying it can be when the potatoes touch the peas, or the gravy seeps into the bread…)
Place a microscopic amount of new foods on a plate for your reluctant eater. This might mean a few peas, a one-inch chunk of fish and a skinny strip of squash. Next, add a pile of your child’s favorite fruit. When they give new foods a try, reward their efforts with a generous dollop of prais
Shop and Cook Together
Strolling through the fruit and vegetable aisle is a colorful visual treat. If you can, bring your child along to see the incredible variety of food that exists in the stores, or shop online together. Point out unusual fruits or vegetables and let him choose something that catches his eye. When you get home (depending on age and ability) your child may be able to mix a marinade, wash vegetables or chop soup ingredients. (Use common sense when it comes to kitchen safety.) When a child helps prepare the food, she may be more ready to sample it. Shopping and working in the kitchen with your child is an ideal, natural way to share time together, too.
Be the Parent
As a parent, your job is to provide healthy food for your child, but you cannot force them to eat it. However, as a smart parent, you can encourage healthy eating by:
- Restricting sugary snacks if your child has a habit of not eating their healthy meals
- Praising your child when he or she tries something new
- Making mealtimes pleasant and pressure-free
- Modeling the eating behaviors you want your child to learn
Picky eaters can change their ways (and their parents can too!) Changes may not happen overnight, but with a little patience, consistent praise and daily practice, your little one might soon be eating her “broccoli trees” with a smile on her face.