You are here
Home > Fattening Food > 10 Healthy Strategies for Parents of Picky Eaters

10 Healthy Strategies for Parents of Picky Eaters


This post was contributed by a community member.

Do you have a child who is a picky eater? If you do, you’re not alone — many parents deal with children who refuse to eat certain foods or are grossed out by new textures and tastes. It’s not your fault: picky eating is usually a combination of factors ranging from biology (we’re hardwired to be initially cautious with new foods) to genetic makeup (some children are extremely sensitive to bitter tastes), to psychology (“My best friend Jessica hates mushrooms, so I hate them now too!”).

Picky eating isn’t just a nuisance — it can prevent your child from getting the essential vitamins and nutrients needed for healthy growth. Fiber in particular, which is important for healthy digestion, is necessary for eaters of any age and if your young diners refuse to eat much beyond chicken, pasta, and other plain foods, chances are they’re lacking it. Picky eating can also contribute to deficiencies in folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and A.

While it may be tempting to reach for that bottle of multicolored, citrus-flavored vitamins to supplement in cases of extreme pickiness, it’s always recommended that you try to meet your children’s nutritional needs through diet first. Fortunately, most kids have at least one or two healthy foods they’re happy to eat (little-known fact: despite its bad rap, broccoli actually ranks as most kids’ favorite veggie!). There are also plenty of ways to encourage or downright swindle your kids into eating more healthily, if that’s what it takes.

Here are 10 healthy options — from strategies to recipes — for parents of picky eaters:

1. Introduce New Foods Slowly

The first step in introducing new foods to your children — whether they’re toddlers or in grade school — is to do it slowly and one at a time. Staring down an entire plate packed with new flavors and textures can be overwhelming for anyone, so try to ease your kids into it.

When introducing new foods, don’t make a big deal of it, but do make a habit of serving new foods regularly so your kids get in the habit of at least trying new things on a consistent basis. Try not to put pressure on them to have a certain reaction: If you show that you expect them to dislike a food, they may be more likely not to try it in the first place.

2. Embrace Variety

A great way to get your kids sampling healthy food is to have them cook meals with you. When kids are active and involved in the kitchen, they’re more likely to try new things and be more comfortable with different foods. Have your kids toss chopped veggies into the salad bowl, stir raw ingredients together, or even help plan the week’s meals and make the grocery list. When they feel involved in the process of choosing what to make for dinner and preparing it, they may be more excited to eat what you’ve made together.

This is also a great opportunity to take the time to talk to your kids about nutrition, food safety, and teach them some basic cooking skills that will help them later in life.

3. Cook With Your Kids

A great way to get your kids sampling healthy food is to have them cook meals with you. When kids are active and involved in the kitchen, they’re more likely to try new things and be more comfortable with different foods. Have your kids toss chopped veggies into the salad bowl, stir raw ingredients together, or even help plan the week’s meals and make the grocery list. When they feel involved in the process of choosing what to make for dinner and preparing it, they may be more excited to eat what you’ve made together.

This is also a great opportunity to take the time to talk to your kids about nutrition, food safety, and teach them some basic cooking skills that will help them later in life.

4. Serve Meals Family Style

Giving kids some independence when it comes to decision-making at the table can help. Instead of plating everyone’s dinner for them, try putting the serving dishes out and letting everyone serve themselves. You can still introduce some flexible rules — like everyone has to take at least one bite from each dish, or everyone has to choose at least one of the vegetable dishes — but this approach instills autonomy and independence while still encouraging healthy habits in your children.

5. Make Food Fun (and Fun Food)

Think of the old saying, “Don’t play with your food!” as a thing of the past. If playing with food is what gets your children to make healthy choices, lean into it! Foods that require dipping, topping, or wrapping are often a hit with kids. Think potacos (these are baked potatoes stuffed with taco ingredients) or lettuce wraps.

Unique ways of presenting food can go a long way as well: invest in some fun dishware, experiment with cutting foods into different shapes, or serve a meal of “appetizers” on toothpicks or skewers — many kids actually think fruit tastes better on a kebab.

6. Explore Healthy Alternatives

If your children will only eat pizza, tacos, or burgers, why not try healthy alternatives for those dishes? Start by swapping major ingredients for healthier ones; for example, using a whole-grain or organic pizza dough, lettuce instead of corn tortillas, or salmon patties instead of beef burgers.

Take it a step further by incorporating healthy, nutrient-dense recipes whenever you can, like these baked taquitos stuffed full of black beans and vegetables. Many times it’s not the foods themselves that are inherently unhealthy — it’s how they’re prepared. Taking the time to make favorite dishes yourself can easily bump up the health factor.

7. Hide the Vegetables

While some parents steer clear of full-on “tricking” their kids, if you’re comfortable hiding veggies or other healthy ingredients within the food you make, this can help combat extreme cases of picky eating. Some popular swaps or hides include adding black beans or beets to dessert dishes, pureeing cauliflower or squash into mac and cheese, and adding shredded veggies to beef burgers.

8. Smoothies to the Rescue

We all know soda isn’t good for kids and most juice options aren’t much better, but don’t write off all beverages yet. Enter: the smoothie.

Not just for health-conscious fitness lovers or rushed 9-to-5ers, smoothies are a great option for kids. They’re easy to tailor to your child’s palate and a surefire way to quickly deliver a lot of nutrition.

Start with a healthy base of unsweetened yogurt, milk, or milk alternative, and then make it appealing with a touch of cocoa powder or peanut butter. Next, bulk it up with a handful of greens and plenty of frozen fruit for natural sweetness, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Voila! Instant deliciousness. Add a colorful “bendy” straw and your kids may forget they’re drinking fruits and veggies entirely!

9. Have Dessert With Dinner

If this headline has you shaking your head already, bear with us for just a second. If your picky eaters are pushing dinner around their plates, complaining they’re not hungry and then racing to grab a dessert plate, you might want to try serving dessert alongside dinner.

Restricting certain foods can lead to resistance or conflict, and it can make the “forbidden” food that much more desirable. Offering a small portion of a reasonably healthy dessert with dinner communicates to your child that you respect their choices, and allows them some much-desired flexibility at the dinner table.

10. Keep Trying

If at first, you don’t succeed: Try, try again — and again, and again. Evidence suggests it may take up to twelve tries to know whether you like a new food. Twelve! This doesn’t mean you should serve the same new food at every meal, but keep in mind that an initial rejection doesn’t mean it’s forever ruled out.

Try to avoid making a fuss when your child rejects a new food and maintain a positive, encouraging attitude that assumes one day, he or she may like it. The results might surprise you.

At the end of the day, if you’re worried about your child’s eating habits or nutritional intake, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your family doctor or nutritionist. They might have just the insight you need to work with your picky eater.

Get the Oceanside-Camp Pendleton newsletter

Subscribe

Thanks for your feedback.



Source link

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Top