BoredMom Ruthie explores the challenges of having a picky eater and provides useful tips to overcome food challenges.
Spaghetti? NO! Broccoli? YUCK! Perhaps a new kind of fruit? GROSS! Rice, corn or even mashed potatoes? NO WAY! My picky eater child: I will only eat chicken nuggets and French fries!! Ah, yeah….here we go again.
As parents of young children, we are the ones in charge of what our children eat. We want to feed our children healthy and nutritious food to support and grow their beansprout bodies and sponge-like brains. As rational adults, we think this is something we can easily control. However, kids aren’t necessarily rational and for some of our ‘picky eaters’, this is a daily struggle that I have found myself often losing. I find myself listing off all the fresh foods in our fridge only to receive a hard ‘NO’ to everything. The nightly struggle is absolutely exhausting! I have tried the ‘don’t ask for their opinion, just put it in front of them’ approach, and that didn’t go over well for me. I have tried the ‘it’s this or nothing’ approach, and my son literally went on a food strike for an entire week! I have even tried special bribes that will be awarded after a successful dinner, and that rarely works. This has been one the absolute hardest struggles I have endured with being a Mom. Whether you have a ‘picky eater’ or not, its easy to fall into a Food Rut and not know how to change up the daily food routine.
After doing some research on how to approach my daily picky kid challenges, I have applied some useful strategies to help break up the dietary monotony. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they have suggested the following tips to incorporate into a daily routine.
Share a meal together as a family as often as you can. This means no media distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you’ve served. This only encourages picky eating. Try to include at least one food your child likes with each meal and continue to provide a balanced meal, whether she eats it or not.
If your toddler refuses a meal, avoid fussing over it. It’s good for children to learn to listen to their bodies and use hunger as a guide. If they ate a big breakfast or lunch, for example, they may not be interested in eating much for the rest of the day. It’s a parent’s responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.
Try, try again
Just because a child refuses a food once, don’t give up. Keep offering new foods and those your child didn’t like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry when a new food is introduced.
Make food fun
Toddlers are especially open to trying foods arranged in eye-catching, creative ways. Make foods look irresistible by arranging them in fun, colorful shapes kids can recognize. Kids this age also tend to enjoy any food involving a dip. Finger foods are also usually a hit with toddlers. Cut solid foods into bite size pieces they can easily eat themselves, making sure the pieces are small enough to avoid the risk of choking.
Involve kids in meal planning
Put your toddler’s growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let you child pick which fruit and vegetable to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes to try.
Once a food is accepted, use what nutritionists call “food bridges” to introduce others with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. If your child likes pumpkin pie, for example, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots.