Dealing with a Picky Eater?

How to Get Your Child to Broaden Their Culinary Horizons

By Maryam A

Dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating. You spend time making a delicious meal and your child doesn’t want to eat it because it has something green or smells funny. Instead they’d rather stick to peanut butter and jelly, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, or one of their other staple foods. Their picky eating and resistance to trying new things may give you concerns that they are not getting all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need each day. It can also make meal preparation take longer because you are creating something different for your child than what everyone else is eating.

Help your child explore new foods and expand their palate so that meal times are more enjoyable. As you expose them to different flavors and textures, they may find foods that they really like. Keep in mind that changing their eating habits can take time, so have patience.

  • Pick out foods together: Take your child with you to the grocery store or farmers market and look at the options together. Talk about different fruits and vegetables and let them pick out something they would like to try. Kids can be more apt to taste something if they’re curious about it and it is something that caught their attention. Also, they will have seen it before it has gone into the meal so they know what it is.
  • Get kids involved in making meals: Along with letting your child pick out some new foods, let them help you prepare these foods as well. They’ll be proud that they’re lending a helping hand and were part of preparing the meal. It also gives them a chance to see how the new food is being used.
  • Mix new foods with favorite foods: Give your child options on their plate. Make meals that combine foods you know they like along with things you want them to try. If you know they’ll eat ranch dressing, try introducing broccoli with some ranch for dipping. Encourage your child to take a few bites but do not force them to finish it if they don’t like it or are unsure. Getting them to simply taste it is a step in the right direction.
  • Reintroduce foods several times: It can take 10 or more times of trying a food before your child can really decide whether or not they like it. And something they didn’t like when they were younger, they may like as they get older. Don’t give up. Continue to incorporate new foods into meals in different ways. Just because your child doesn’t like raw carrots doesn’t mean they won’t like them cooked.
  • Start with small servings: Give your child just a little bit of the new food to taste. If they like it, they can always ask for more. This can also make it look less overwhelming or intimidating because they are not faced with a large amount.
  • Set a good example: Let your child see you eating a variety of different foods. If they pick out something that you haven’t tried before, let them see you tasting it and giving it a chance. Keep healthy foods on hand for snacks and meals and show them that you are making healthy choices too. Sometimes kids are more interested in what you have on your plate than what is on their own, so if they see you eating something, they may want to try it.
  • Stop making separate meals: If you always cook something different for your child instead of what everyone else is eating, they will come to expect this and it can turn them off from trying new foods. Why try something new when they know they’ll get what they like? Make sure that there are foods on their plate that they like and let them enjoy the same meal as everyone else and try new things.

Be creative and use your knowledge of the types and flavors of foods that your child does enjoy to integrate new foods into their diet. You may be surprised at what you find they like, or what they will eat without even realizing it. Most of all have patience and give them time to build up their palate.

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