Oh the classic picky eater – we’ve all known them, are perhaps currently raising one or maybe we were that picky eater as a kid!
No matter what, dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating and stressful. We know the importance of a well balanced diet and all the reasons our kids should be trying new foods, but making that happen is easier said than done for lots of families.
We’ve put together a few ways to help you support the picky eaters in your family. These are easy-to-incorporate tips that will help your child become more comfortable, and willing, to try different foods.
1. Exposure to different foods
For many picky eaters it may be a lack of exposure that is contributing to their unwillingness to try something new!
Try presenting new foods as simply something to observe and be around – look at the food and talk about how it smells, what it looks like and what they think it might taste like. Discuss why you, the adult, like the food without the expectation that they, the child, should like it too.
2. Keep new foods in rotation
As a family, keep new foods in the rotation regularly. As your picky eater watches you try new things on a regular basis they will learn that there are so many different options, not just the one or two they always prefer.
When they see you enjoying, and talking about, how good these new foods are they will become more comfortable with adding new food into their own diet.
3. Give kids food choices
For some picky eaters, refusing to eat anything other than a select group of foods can be the biggest hurdle so giving them some ownership over their food may help.
When introducing new foods, or encouraging them to try new foods, present them with 2 healthy options, instead of the one snack they always choose, and allow them to choose which they’d prefer. This gives them a bit of control and say in what they eat.
4. Get kids involved in the kitchen
Allowing kiddos to participate in preparing a meal can encourage them to try the food they’re helping to make!
Make the new foods, and the food prep, fun by involving them along the way. They can help at the grocery store gathering ingredients and then assist in the kitchen while you cook.
Being involved in this part of food prep gives them a chance to get excited about food, instead of being resistant to it.
5. Re-invent their favorite foods
Try putting a spin on their go-to foods by making healthier versions. If they are a fast food chicken nugget-only kid, try a recipe that gives them the same chicken nugget experience but in a healthier way.
Make a “milkshake” smoothie and sneak some veggies and protein in…they’ll enjoy the experience of a treat while you feel good about them getting a serving of the good stuff!
Let them get creative with foods by adding fruit faces to pancakes or making monster feet out of cut up veggies! Using foods as something to “play” with can help change their outlook on new kinds of food.
You can also add in a healthy food to something they already love. If they love sweets, introduce apples dipped in Nutella and caramel or veggies dipped in ranch dressing. Showing them that they can have their tried and true favorites, but in a healthier way, will help the introduction of new foods be a bit easier!
6. Treats don’t need to go away
When you’re in a struggle with a picky eater it may be tempting to take away treats until they try some new foods, but this doesn’t have to be the case!
Use their favorite go-to treats to teach them about balance and moderation. Talk about how what they eat helps their body and brain grow strong and that it’s so good for their bodies to eat healthy food AND have a few treats as well.
7. Keep at it
When it comes to picky eaters, consistency is key! Breaking the habit of only eating a few foods, or a certain group of foods, will take some work, but be patient and stay consistent.
Introduce a new food every other week, keep the conversation going about why it’s important to eat lots of different foods and allow your child to be a participant in the process!
With consistent exposure to new foods, and a supportive environment, you’re picky eater will be trying, and maybe even requesting new foods!
And if you feel like you’ve tried just about everything to get your picky eater out of the food fight cycle and you’re ready for more support, we’d love to help!