Most parents have faced this scenario: After a long day, you prepare a meal for your family, only to discover that your child refuses to take a bite. Picky eating is a widespread problem, with many parents feeling frustrated over their children’s eating habits. Fortunately, there are ways to help your child try new foods while incorporating healthy ingredients. Here’s how:
When your child only eat a handful of foods, it’s easy to call him or her a “picky eater.” However, using that label for your child may cause him or her to internalize that behaviour, which can lead to more pickiness. Instead, try to take a positive approach when asking your child to try new things. Encourage your child to try a food several times as he or she learns to enjoy it.
Anyone who’s visited a grocery store knows that many foods are catered to kids’ picky palates, and you may find yourself breaking out the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets when your child refuses to eat dinner. However, making “special” meals for your children may reinforce their picky behaviour. If your child argues with you, don’t engage – simply inform your child that the food you’ve prepared is the only option.
Combining healthy foods with items your child already enjoys is a great way to sneak in vitamins and nutrients. For example, macaroni and cheese is a kid-friendly favourite that can be made healthier with pureed squash or pumpkin. You can also experiment with different spices and flavourings to make food more appealing to children, like orange zest on vegetables or cinnamon on sliced fruit.
Learning to eat a variety of foods is much like learning to read – it can be taught in a fun way. Try letting your children help when shopping at the grocery store or preparing meals, which can make them more interested in trying new foods. Many grocery stores even offer children’s cooking classes, which allow your child to socialize while learning about new foods.
Remember, picky eating is not a personality trait and doesn’t often become permanent. Children’s eating habits can be erratic, so patience is key when helping your child discover new foods. With patience and a bit of fun, your child may become an adventurous eater in no time.