Are your mealtimes filled with running, crying, and begging?  Does your child only eat a few types of food? Does your child refuse food base on its color, texture, or flavor?  Does your child take forever to eat the food?  If you said yes to any of the questions, you are not alone. These are the typical scenarios of a home of a family with a picky eater.

Let us be honest. It can be concerning that your child is not getting the right amount of nutrition that he/she needs for his/her growth. Parents may also feel tired and frustrated in feeding their picky eater. They eventually give in to the whining and give the child his/her preferred food.

While it can be challenging, do not give up just yet. There are tips that you can try to encourage your child to eat healthier.  Let us go over them.

How to Deal with Picky Eaters 

asian mother and child bonding while cooking

1.     Let the child help with food preparation.

Encourage your child to play a part in food preparation.  Younger kids can already help in simple kitchen tasks like pouring, transferring, and mixing ingredients.  You can further entice them with colored kitchen and child-size utensils, shaped cutters, and their very own apron.

For older kids, you can let them do more complex tasks such as cutting and cooking. Being involved in the process can help the child feel excited about the food he/she is preparing.  As they cook, they begin to experience the sight, smell, and texture of the food. 

The food preparation activity can be your bonding time with your child.  We are sure your child will look forward to this activity to spend more time with you.          

2.     Involve your child in meal planning. 

You can try to ask your child's help in meal planning.  You can browse child-friendly cookbooks together and choose recipes that you want to try and cook. You can also ask your child to help in making the grocery list with you.

3.     Give your child options. 

Make your child feel that his/her opinion is valued. When introducing or offering new food, you can give your child options. For instance, you can ask him/her which fruit he/she wants to try.  Perhaps your child can have an orange for lunch and then try the strawberries for dinner. 

When the child feels that he/she has a say, sense of value and empowerment is being cultivated. It has a better effect than feeling coerced into eating the food that he/she does not like.

4.     Make eating a bonding experience.

Eat together as a family.  All members must eat the same food so refrain from cooking special food for your child.  The practice of cooking a separate meal for your child can encourage picky eating.

Use the time to talk with the family members and make eating a time to bond.  Refrain from using gadgets or watching television while eating, so the focus is on eating and spending quality time with the family. Mindful eating cultivates a better relationship with food and body awareness. 

5.     Model your desired behavior.

Prepare your meals according to the diet you want your family to have. If you want your child to eat fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food types, you need to show them that you eat it too. If you don't want them to eat junk foods, don't buy salty and sugary food anymore. 

Remember that kids learn best based on what they observe and not what they hear.  Modeling is a great way to encourage behavior that your child will copy.

6.     Make your food look appealing.

submarine design sandwich

Kids are attracted to bright colors and beautiful presentation.  Bring out your creativity in your food plating.  You can use colorful vegetables and fruits in your meals and cut them out in different shapes.

7.     Keep on trying to offer food.

Your child might refuse the food at first try, but do not give up easily. It may take up to fifteen times before your child accepts the food.  If your child refuses, try another time again.

It may be helpful if you keep track of the new food that you offer your child.  In this way, you can see which food your child likes and dislikes.  You will get an idea of what your child dislikes in the food you serve.  You can also use this to help you schedule the food rotation accordingly.

8.     Introduce similar food. 

Once the child finally eats a particular food, you may try to offer another food with a similar texture, color, and flavor.  For instance, if your child liked the mashed squash, try giving mashed potato or mashed carrots. 

This strategy can help you introduce more food to your child easier. 

9.     Start with small portions.

When introducing your kid to new food, start with small portions first.  Also, it would be best to pair it with food that your child already likes.  Doing this will help your child adjust and not feel overwhelmed with new.

10.  Be patient with your child. 

Your child may be persistent with saying "No" to every new food that you offer. Be patient, don't lose your temper and nag your child to eat. 

11.  Hide the treats 

The easy way to settle the negotiation about food is to bribe the child with sweets.  However, try not to go this route to avoid mealtimes being a battle between the two of you. 

The goal is for the child to eat the food because he/she is interested and because he/she recognizes the benefits and appreciate the taste and texture of the food.

12.  Read books and magazines about food 

Look for books or magazines discussing how our body works, the nutrition our body needs, and story types.  Reading books with beautiful illustrations is a great way to teach kids about the benefits of healthy eating and the food we need.

We hope that these tips help you encourage your child to be more open in trying new food and eating healthy.  Remember, it requires practice and consistency to form a healthy habit, so be patient and keep trying.

However, if you are still worried about your child's eating habits, growth, and nutrition, do not hesitate to consult your pediatrician or nutritionist.  The experts can give more insights and advice on ensuring your child still gets the nourishment he/she needs daily.

If you have personal experience handling picky eaters, please drop your tips and stories in the comment box below.

Tiny Steps

We play, learn and grow with children. 

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