Picky eating can be a symptom of a developmental disorder, like autism, or it can be a phase that will pass in your child’s life. Either way, it is a challenging issue that many parents have to contend with. When you are responsible for your child’s homeschool meals and family dinners, it falls on your shoulders to make sure they receive all the nutritional value they need.
By approaching picky eating head-on, you can demonstrate to your child that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to trying new foods. There are many techniques that your child’s doctor or food therapist will recommend, but these are some supplemental ideas that can make mealtime less stressful.
Involve Your Children in the Kitchen
One way to help your children feel more accepting of new foods is to have them help in preparing the meals. By involving them in the creation of the meal, they are able to see the exact ingredients that go into the meal. They also might feel a sense of pride knowing that they helped in the preparation, which would give them a greater incentive to try it.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Picky eating can cause some stressful mealtimes, particularly when your child refuses to eat entirely. It is of the utmost importance not to let your frustration show to your child, as this will only make them associate the table with negative feelings. Instead, encourage them to eat, but don’t ever force them. They will eat when they are hungry and when they do, be sure to positively reinforce them both with your words and even a special treat, like a sticker.
Try Variations on Their Favorite Foods
Instead of trying to get your child to eat a plate full of brand new foods, add in one at a time to meals that they already love. For example, if you know they enjoy chicken nuggets, add a few kernels of corn to the plate to see if they will eat it with their chicken. You can also cleverly disguise vegetables in their favorite meals using foods like hidden veggie pasta that were designed for this purpose.
Make Use of Condiments
To make your child’s mealtime more fun, approach it as an interactive experience. The more ways you can offer your child to customize their meal and use their hands, the more exciting it will be. For example, you can have a burger night with lots of condiments in small dishes for your child to choose from. From cheese to lettuce, ketchup, and mustard, let your child make their own burger their way.
Be Persistent with New Foods
As with most things in life, persistence is critical. Don’t give up just because your child turned up their nose at a new food one or two times. On average, it can take 15 or more tries before a child will try it.
Don’t lose hope when it comes to trying to help your picky eater. Even if they don’t eat at mealtimes, they will eventually be hungry, which gives you another opportunity to offer them healthy foods rather than snacks. Try to stay organized so that you can have a lighthearted approach to lunch and dinner, rather than a stress-filled one.
Guest Post by Chloe Kirby:
Chloe Kirby is a writer and digital marketing professional. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and her Master’s Degree at Goldsmiths University in London, England. Chloe has professional experience in e-commerce, digital marketing, and copywriting. For the last year, she has been working in New York City.