What to do with Picky Eaters?
Before I get into how you may help your picky eater become open to trying new things, I want to look at four common mistakes parents make around feeding time.
4 Mealtime Mistakes Parents Make
- Parents interfere with eating, by using phrases like “two more bites”; "eat this.... before that...." What is wrong with that, you ask? Children are born with the natural ability to regulate food intake and know when they are hungry and when they are full. When you force them to eat more or less it teaches them to ignore what their bodies are telling them.
- Not having structured meal times teaches a child to eat out of habit or boredom rather than hunger. It is important not to force a child to eat at set times but I encourage you to remind them, that the next meal time is X amount of hours away.
- Cook a family meal that everyone eats. You are not a restaurant, and do not make special meals for your child. This encourages children to expand their taste buds, and their food repertoire. If your child is hungry enough they will try it.
- Pushing the veggies. Many don’t know this, but 70% of young children have sensitivities to bitter compounds in vegetables that leave them uncomfortable, which will decrease over time.
Now we know what not to do, here are 5 tricks to get your kids to try new foods.
5 Tricks To Help Kids Try New Foods
- Involve your children in the process of meal prep from shopping and prepping to cooking and serving. They will be more likely to try something they worked so hard to make.
- Make shopping a game, by playing games like bingo or eye spy in the grocery store with your child.
- Have them come shopping with you and discuss what value each of the items has to their body. Eg. carrots help with good eyesight, blueberries are full of antioxidants etc.
- Play with your food. You read that right: make meal time fun. Sing songs; make your broccoli dance on the plate; maybe even on your tongue. Start with little things like holding the item, how does it feel? What does it smell like? Can you lick it? What does it taste like? Can you put it in your mouth and then spit it out? What did it feel like? Take one bite and spit it out, then 5, then chomp it all up and spit it out. Try one little bite, chew and swallow. Most children likely won’t get through all the steps with the first try but if you continue exposing your child you will be surprised how they will come around.
- Have a child’s friend over to play with your child, preferably one that likes the food you’re exposing your child to. Peer pressure is sometimes a good thing.
I know what you are thinking: this process could take awhile, so what can I do in the meantime?
Sneaky Quick Fixes
There are several things you could try. Hide nutrients in the foods they like, such as protein or Greens powder in smoothies, applesauce, or yogurt as long as the color doesn’t turn the kids off. There are a million and one recipes online that hide carrots, zucchini, spinach in all kinds of food if you were so inclined to cook.
You could also consider meal replacement drinks like Boost or Ensure. Many tend to be chalky in texture and not all that tasty, but I have come across one meal replacement drink that is thin like juice and tastes like fruit juice without the sugar. A couple of my clients' parents mix it with their children's berry fruit juice in the mornings and the kids don’t even know it is there.