Picky eating can make things difficult for a busy family, but it’s a normal phase that more than half of all children experience at one time or another. Young children and toddlers often go through a period of picky eating as they develop their tastes and continue to try a large number of new foods.
Your child’s food preferences may not always align with your expectations, and they can change wildly from one day to the next. These picky eater tips will help your child to try new foods and develop healthy eating habits that could last a lifetime.
It can be tough to get your family to share a meal together, especially with distractions like phones, TV, and video games. But it’s also important to eat together, especially if your child is having trouble trying new foods and broadening his or her palate.
Eating as a family also lets your child know that they are expected to be flexible with their food preferences. Don’t become a short-order cook by making a separate meal any time your picky eater doesn’t like what’s on the menu.
Instead, try to put at least one thing they do like in each meal, and don’t force them to eat anything they’re not interested in. Children sometimes need to be exposed to a new food more than 10 times before they warm up to it.
For example, Yumble suggests that if you’ve decided to serve vegetarian foods to your kids one week, make sure you’re incorporating the new veggies into family favorites. Consider adding broccoli or carrots to mac and cheese, or serving a veggie-packed fried rice one night. Chances are your little one will be more open to trying something new when they’re familiar with the rest of the meal.
Don’t Pressure or Incentivize Them
Many parents try to get their children to try new and different foods, either by putting pressure on them to eat a certain amount or by offering them another food as a reward. It’s easy to see the logic behind these strategies, but they’re usually not as effective as they seem.
Trying to make your child eat a certain food can quickly turn mealtime into a hostile and combative environment, which is the opposite of the message you want to send. New foods should be presented as exciting and unique, not as a responsibility.
Similarly, bribing a child with the chance to eat a food they like after trying something new reinforces the idea that trying new foods is a difficult chore. It’s important to let them expand their appetites at their own pace and without too much external pressure either way.
The habits we develop early in life are much easier to maintain than those we start later, and exposing your child to a range of healthy foods at a young age will make them more receptive to new foods as they continue to grow. Trying to introduce fruits and vegetables in later childhood will make this process even more difficult, as they will already have grown accustomed to a different diet.
You can help a younger child start eating healthier foods by modeling that behavior yourself and encouraging them to do the same. Children take after their parents in a variety of ways, and it’s much easier to convince them to try something new if they’ve seen you eating it before. For the same reason, it’s tough to get a child to eat healthy foods if their parents don’t follow the same habits.
A new picky eating phase can be confusing and difficult to approach, but this is a normal stage of growth that will usually go away over time as your child develops better eating habits. These tips will help you provide a supportive and fun environment for them to try new foods at their own pace.