Those tricky picky eaters
You can let your kids pick out their clothes or their friends, but don’t let them become picky with their food. Instead use a “try it” rule to expand their palette and open their minds. Doing so can turn them from a nuggetivore into a true omnivore (or herbivore if that’s their style) and it’s one of those “they’ll thank you later” things. Setting your kids up for eating success can come with challenges – but it’s well worth it.
The basis for good eating habits is to respect their appetite. You don’t need to offer a meal or snack if they’re not hungry, and similarly, try to avoid bribing or forcing them to eat certain foods or clean their plate. The last thing you want is for frustration and anxiety to be linked with mealtime. Just serve small portions and let them ask for more. If they want it, they’ll ask. They always do, right?
Another way to keep things chill around the kitchen table is to stick to a routine. Whenever possible, try to eat together and at the same time every day. Make rules for beverages too. Offer milk and juice during meals and only water in between to make sure your kids don’t fill up on liquids. That way when they sit down to eat, they’ll actually…sit down and eat.
Routines are great, but it’s also important to make sure things don’t get stale. Try serving up new foods and unexpected dishes – like breakfast for dinner. Use a cookie cutter to make food into different shapes or sneak veggies into pasta sauces or smoothies.
Getting your kids involved in food shopping and cooking is a good idea too. Letting kids pick out better-for-you foods at the store will make them more likely to eat the good stuff. In the kitchen, have them set the table or stir sauces - there are plenty of teachable moments here. Plus, you’ll get help putting together dinner.
Depending on their age, you can have them do everything from washing fruits and veggies, to measuring ingredients, peeling, cleaning up or even making their own side dish. “But they’re actually not helping at all,” you say as you wipe the sticky fingerprints from the counter. Stick with it. The habits you’re creating will help you, and them, in the long run. And before you know it, they’ll actually be making mealtime easier.
Above all, set a good example. If you’re eating lots of good stuff, your kids will eventually follow suit. But if they’re rejecting the meal you’ve prepared, don’t become a short-order cook. Whipping up a new meal for them only promotes further picky eating. So stay strong! Keep serving up the good stuff and try to get them to stay at the table for the entire meal – even if they don’t eat.
If you’re genuinely concerned about your picky eater, it can help to keep a food log of everything they’re eating. Most likely you’ll find they’re eating enough and if not you have a great starting point to strategize with a professional. Of course, you can find all sorts of resources to help your kids love the good stuff at yumpower.com. Good luck!