Healthy Kids Previous Articles
June 4th, 2011
10 tips for picky eaters
Has your preschooler refused to eat anything other than peanut butter sandwiches for the past two days? Or would your toddler rather play than eat anything at all?
If children's nutrition is a sore topic in your household, you're not alone. Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don't eat. However, most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. Until your child's food preferences mature, consider these tips for preventing mealtime battles.
1. Respect your child's appetite — or lack of one
Young children tend to eat only when they're hungry. If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to clean his or her plate. This may only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food.
2. Stick to the routine
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Nix juice, milk and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat.
3. Be patient with new foods
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.
4. Make it fun
Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner.
5. Recruit your child's help
At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
6. Set a good example
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
7. Be sneaky
Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
8. Minimize distractions
Turn off the television during meals, and don't allow books or toys at the table.
9. Don't offer dessert as a reward
Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child's desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
10. Don't be a short order cook
Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal may encourage your child's picky eating. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development or if certain foods make your child ill, consult your child's doctor. In the meantime, remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight — but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.
(From the article, "Children's nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters")