10 Ways to Encourage Picky Eaters
Picky eating is a common challenge when it comes to raising toddlers and young children. According to healthychildren.org, after the rapid growth of infancy, when babies usually triple in weight, a toddler’s growth rate – and appetite – tends to slow down, which impacts what they choose to eat. As children are growing it is important that they are reaching their nutritional needs as well as creating habits for a healthy lifestyle (To learn more about improving your child’s nutrition click HERE). Whether your child seems to only go for foods that are sweet and sugary or refuses to try tasty greens and fresh fruits, mealtimes can become a frustrating challenge for both you and your kiddo. No matter how you may choose to address the challenge, the overall goal is to get a picky eater to eat. See the 10 ways you can encourage your picky eater and help them transition into a happy and healthy mealtime.
1. Use Encouraging Words
Remember that gentle words can go a long way. It may be easy to get frustrated when trying to get your child to at least try the green beans at dinner but remember that eating new things is just as challenging for them. Encourage them to try just one bite and then at the next meal have them try two bites. Slowly implementing new habits with encouraging words will make mealtimes a positive atmosphere for both you and your child.
2. Let Them “Play” With Their Food
Your child may be a picky eater because they are sensitive to certain textures or smells. Let your child see what foods ‘are all about’ and experiment with different tastes and textures. As a parent, this will help you narrow down foods so that your child will be more successful with eating.
3. Be an Example
It is important to note that you are one of your child’s top role models. If you are expecting them to try new foods or pick fruits over processed sugars, make sure you are setting that example for them. During meals try to take bites of new foods alongside them.
4. Offer Variety
Sometimes helping a picky eater can be as easy as offering variety when it comes to mealtimes. Make sure your child has two or three new options each day that will help them meet their nutritional needs. This will provide them with a sense of control that they are able to pick what they eat as well as give them multiple nutritious options. You never know, they may choose to try all three new options!
5. Make Mealtimes An “Event”
Although life can get busy, and unexpected things can pop-up on your schedule, try your best to have consistent mealtimes each day. This will help your child get into a routine and have specific times set aside each day to focus on eating rather than being occupied by outside distractions.
6. Keep Positive Conversation at the Meal Table
Make sure to keep the conversations positive or neutral at mealtime. If you bring negativity to the table, it is more likely your child will not want to cooperate with you or your requests.
7. Celebrate Your Child Trying New Foods
Little victories are still victories! Whether your child is open to trying more than one new food item each week, or they successfully made the transition to consistently eating what is put in front of them, make sure you are celebrating them.
8. Encourage Them to Talk About What They Do and Do Not Like About Foods
Let your child be vocal throughout the eating process of mealtimes. Weighing foods that your child does and does not like will help make making meals your child enjoys less stressful and help you explore more foods in the categories of taste and texture your child seems to like.
9. Cut Back on Snacks and Drinks
Try your best to limit your child’s snacking and drinking outside of mealtimes. This will build inconsistent habits and may be a main reason your child is a picky eater. If a child knows they can snack all day long, they are less likely to indulge in meals when it comes to set mealtimes.
10. Record Progress
Although it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, noting your child’s food tolerances and what meals they are enjoying with little to no complaints will help you create meals and a schedule that will help your child become less of a picky eater.