By: Jacqueline Minichiello, MS, RD, LDN
It is very natural for children to go through a period of picky eating. Many children often love a food one day and then don’t like it the next day. Also, we are all born with an instinctive nature to crave sweet and salty foods and have a dislike towards sour or bitter foods. Studies have found that children between 2-6 years old are at the peak of fearing new foods. As a parent, it can be discouraging to deal with this; however, children can get past this by being exposed to a food many times, by parents being patient and by not making a big deal over it. Here are some tips to help deal with picky eating!
1. Don’t force your child to eat. Forcing them to eat any food, not just vegetables, can make the process of trying new foods more difficult.
2. Offer picky kids some of the sweeter-tasting vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and acorn squash.
3. Don’t push children to eat bitter vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cauliflower and dark leafy greens like spinach. If they reject them, try again another day. It can take at least 12 exposures before a child likes a food.
4. Make sure fruits are ripe, sweet and juicy. Wait until taste buds mature before giving fruits that are sour like grapefruit or granny smith apples.
5. Make it fun! Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Serve a variety of brightly colored foods.
6. Set a good example! Children are smart. If mom and dad don’t have to eat their fruits and vegetables, children will wonder why they have to. Role model healthy habits by increasing vegetables for the whole family.
7. Don’t offer a dessert as a reward for eating vegetables. You want to set healthy habits. Trying foods and patience is the best way!
8. Don’t uses phrases like “Eat that for me” or “You are such a big girl, you finished all your peas” or “You need to take one more bite before you leave the table” or “No dessert until you eat your vegetables!”
9. Choose phrases such as “Has your tummy had enough?” or “Which one is your favorite?” or “Everyone likes different foods, don’t they?”