Helping picky eaters try new foods

Children may be picky eaters for a variety of reasons. Follow these tips to help them get more variety into their diets.

It would seem some children have a longer list of foods that they refuse to eat than a list of foods they enjoy. Picky eater, choosy eater or challenging eater; it all comes down to parents worrying that their child won’t be healthy because they refuse to eat a variety of foods. There are times when children only want to eat the same foods over and over again. These food jags are common. To determine if your child is getting enough variety in their diet become a food detective by tracking your child’s eating habits over a week. Looking at a week of meals instead of a couple of days may show more variety than you suspected as most children eat a variety of food over the course of many days.

Don’t force your child to eat; they may not be hungry at meal time. They may also want to be in control. Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding children, suggests that parents have the responsibility of providing healthy food while the child has the responsibility of eating. When introducing new foods to your children it’s easy for power struggles to happen. The following hints may help you to avoid such troubles at your dinner table:

  • Patience, patience, patience! Children sometimes act as though we are trying to poison them by offering new foods. A child may refuse to try it, may put the food in his mouth and spit it out or may surprise you and not only eat it, but like it. Whatever reaction you get remember that it may take several times for your child to take that first bite. We can’t all be as lucky as one mom who shared this from her young son who would ask; “Mom, do I like this?” and the mom would answer; “Yes Daniel, you do” and he would happily eat it!
  • Keep quiet. If you draw attention to a new food you may have already lost the battle. When offering new food items, make it seem like the most natural thing for meal time.
  • Make sure your children are hungry. Children who are hungry may be more likely to try something new, even if it is green! If your children have an afternoon snack make sure you serve dinner at least an hour after snack time.
  • A young chef may eat what they make. Finding things your child can do in the kitchen with you can increase the odds of them trying new foods. Visit your local library for a book about foods from different countries and then have them help find the ingredients at the store. Even very young children can participate by sitting in a high chair and stirring batter or simply by watching.

Keep your expectations low and build from there. Children who are choosy eaters will not change their behavior magically in a week or even two, but it can be done.

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