Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters

Most children go through a phase of picky eating. Children may pick this up from parents’ eating habits or because they have an aversion to different foods or smells. The first taste buds to develop are the sweet taste bud, so if you give your baby sweet foods first, they will prefer those over foods like broccoli or carrots. Giving your child bland foods first will help them eat more of those foods – introduce sweet food later. Food should not be a way to punish, reward, or bribe children. For example, “if you clean your room, you can have some brownies,” or “if you eat all the food on your plate, you can have dessert.” Using food as a punishment or reward can produce a picky eater, a child eating too much of a food, or not eating at all. Some tricks and tips to help your picky eater venture out and try new foods are below!

How is the food being presented?

Presentation is key – This is a big selling or breaking point for children. If the food doesn’t look appetizing to them, they will refuse it without trying. Don’t go for a fancy presentation – they prefer simple and kid friendly food. Sneaking in vegetables that your child doesn’t usually prefer will help with this process, as well. You can add cauliflower to mac and cheese by simply grounding it up after cooked and mixing it in. Don’t put a lot in this because it will overpower the mac and cheese. You can add carrots, as well – just be creative. Presenting and introducing foods to your child is key. It takes at least 10 or more times before a child may try a food they didn’t initially want to, but it is important not to give up.

Start recording what your child eats.

This can be a way to see whether or not your child is eating a variety of foods. If your child is eating more snacks and drinks than he/she should be, you may want to reign the snacks in a bit and focus more on foods with nutritional value. Your child may be filling up on non-nutritious foods causing them not to be hungry or even tired. What does your child eat at schoo? When they come home, do they eat all their snacks? Keep a little journal for two to three weeks. This will give you an idea of what your child is eating if they do not eat a lot. You may be surprised that they are eating a variety of food, just not as often as you would like.

Friends help a lot

Friends have magical ways of making your child eat food that you have tried on many occasions with no avail. Have you ever picked up your child from child care or school and the teacher said they ate everything from the hot lunch served? That is because their friends were eating it and they tried it. You can still try to give your child the same foods at home and they still won’t eat it. This is ok, eventually your child will start to eat them at home. Family style lunches encourage children to try new foods in a school setting. Here at The Children’s Workshop, our kitchen sneaks vegetables into the lunches and sends different foods for children to eat at all of our schools. This has been a success and helps with the development of different taste with their ever-changing pallets. If you are having difficulty with your child not eating, try inviting a friend over for dinner so your child can eat with them. This may be a way to ease them into different foods.

Sensory issues

Some children have texture issues that make it difficult to try new foods. Don’t stress; you can introduce foods slowly, as well as change the textures if it helps. For example, if a child loves pasta but hates chunks in tomato sauce, you can put the can of tomato sauce in the blender to ensure a smoother consistency. Some children only like food that is smooth. This is ok, look at different foods that can maybe be pureed. Some may think they don’t want to do this for the 5,6 or 8-year-old, but it is ok. Look for foods that can already be served smooth, or try ones that can be mixed together without your child noticing. You can slowly introduce the different foods back to their original state. It may take a while, but you will get there.

Let Your Child Help

Including your child in the process of preparing the food may be the best way to get them to try food. Ask them to help prepare some simple ingredients, depending on their age. If they are a little bit older, you can include them more in that process. Having your child involved in shopping for the ingredients and talking to them about them, could potentially help them also try some of the food you are preparing. Starting a garden, even in the winter, can help your child to choose some healthier items on their plate. Clearly, summer is ideal for gardens, but you could also incorporate an herb garden, small tomato plants, and more during the months that prevent you from planting outside.

How to move forward?

Ask your child questions: what they ate at school, what they liked or didn’t like, why didn’t they like a certain type of food? This will help you narrow down if it is texture, appearance, or taste that they notice first. You don’t just want to dismiss the food that your child doesn’t like. You want a variety of color on their plate. This\, will help your child move toward being less of a picky eater and more of a healthy eater, making dinnertime a much easier process.

This article was written by Tracy Martin-Turgeon, VP and Regional Director of Operations at The Children’s Workshop.
Resources: Parent Magazine and American Heart Association.

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