Having a picky eater at your table can be a test of your patience. You work hard to prepare healthy meals that taste good, but one of your children refuses to even consider it.
You try to find ways to get your kids to eat new things and maybe you have even found a few picky eater meals that work well. Even with that little bit of progress, you know that there is so much more they should be eating.
If you have one or more picky eaters at your table, you don’t need to worry too much. Being picky about food is a normal part of childhood development for most kids. You just need to keep trying and follow some of the following tips to get your kids to try new foods.
Eat Your Meals Together
You should try to eat meals together as a family as much as you can. It might not be possible to eat every meal together, but it helps to have everyone around the table eating the same foods. It also gives parents the opportunity to reinforce good eating habits and table behavior.
Another reason why this is important is because parents are a child’s primary role models. If they see you and other family members eating and enjoying a food, they will be more likely to want to try it.
Make One Meal for the Whole Family
It can be easy to slip into the habit of making special meals just for the picky eater at the table. You want them to eat, and if you just give them something they like, it makes dinnertime easier. While this might be easier in the moment, it provides the child with no incentive to try new things.
Do your family meal planning and stick to your decisions. You could include something you know your child likes to make sure they will eat something, but don’t make an individual meal just for the picky eater.
Focus on Variety
Everyone needs variety in their diet. Change meals up regularly and do not get stuck on serving your kids the same thing too frequently.
This can be a problem when you have one specific food you want your child to try. Don’t keep bringing it to the table every day. Find a variety of new foods you want them to try and serve them on different days.
The dinner table should be for eating and spending time with the family. You shouldn’t have the TV on, phones out at the table or toys to play with. Distractions make it difficult for children to focus on eating and it can make it even harder to get them to try new things.
Let Them Help in the Kitchen
If your kids help to prepare a food, they will be more likely to want to try it. Get them in the kitchen and allow them to take on small tasks that help you prepare the meal. This could be tasks like washing the vegetables or measuring ingredients.
Don’t Give Up on a Food
Just because a child says they don’t like a food the first time they see it, that does not mean that they will not eventually grow to like it. Research has shown that children can grow to like a food more if they are exposed to it enough.
Keep trying and consider different ways you could serve the food. Just don’t try to serve the same new food every day. Try it once, then give it a few days before you try it again.
Giving your kids the option to choose their meals and snacks can be a way to get them to try new things and eat healthier. The key is to not offer any of their old favorites. Give the child multiple options for lunch or a snack and make sure they are all healthy choices that offer something new. Just the fact that they were allowed to choose can increase their willingness to try new things.
Set a Schedule for Meals
Set a schedule for meals and snacks and stick to it. This will get your child used to eating at certain times of the day and it will help to ensure that they are hungry at mealtime. Since a hungry child will be much more likely to try new foods, this can be a good way to get your kids over picky eating habits.
Allow for Some Treats
Many parents will ban sweets or try to use them as a reward to get kids to try new foods. Neither one of these strategies will help with picky eating. You should let your kids have sweets sometimes and teach them about the limits of eating sweets.
Banning sweet treats or using them as a reward can backfire. Since they can’t have it, they will only want it more. Also, if you set cake or cookies up as a reward for eating something new, it can have the effect of making the sweet treat seem even more valuable in the mind of the child.
As a final point, don’t put too much pressure on your kids. Trying to force a child to eat something can often result in them liking it even less. Be encouraging when it comes to new foods and talk to your kids about the value of trying new things.