How To Serve Healthy Food To Your Little Picky Eaters
Children can become picky eaters for a number of reasons. Some children are naturally more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. Other children develop picky eating habits by modeling their parents' fussy eating habits. Picky eating habits are more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children's eating behaviors.
Here are some tips to try with your picky eater:
Offer a variety of foods.
Your child should select from a variety of foods at mealtime like a vegetable, fruit, protein and starch. The family menu should not be limited to the child's favorite foods. Children can be offered a food up to 15 times before they will try it.
Limit high calorie drinks.
Your child may not eat the foods you provide if he or she is drinking too many calories from juice, soda or milk. If your child drinks too much, he or she can become full and eat poorly at mealtimes. With no nutritional benefit, soda is not recommended for children.
Set a meal schedule.
Snacks and meals are important for growing children to meet their nutrition needs. Having a set schedule of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks helps children know that there is a meal coming every two to three hours and that they will not go hungry. Avoid giving your child food between the scheduled times.
Everyone has their own quirks about eating. Children may eat a sandwich cut into triangles without crusts, but would not eat the same sandwich cut into squares with the crusts. It is important to realize that your child may react differently to the same foods on different days.
Pick the right portion.
For a new food, a little bite or two is enough. There's no need to expect your child to dig right into a whole helping of spinach the first time.
Offer a choice.
Let your child choose from a selection of healthy foods you have available. For instance, offer him/her a choice between carrots and corn for her vegetable.
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.
Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
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.
You are not 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.
Set a good example.
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
Try these ideas for making mealtimes a bit more creative:
Breakfast Toast with a Face: Use cream cheese, slices of strawberry, blueberries and other fruits to draw a face on toasted bread. Breakfast Smoothie: Blend low-fat yogurt with fruit to make a tasty, drinkable breakfast.
Lunch Silly Sandwiches: Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches in fun shapes.
Cold-cut Roll Ups: Instead of a sandwich, take lunch meat, cheese slices, and a tortilla and roll them up together.
Dinner Mini Pizzas: Use the usual ingredients and toppings, but a bagel or pita for the crust.
Breakfast for Dinner: Serve waffles or omelets at dinner time. Try fun shaped pasta.
Snack Ants on a Log: Celery with peanut butter and raisins.
Vegetable sticks with dip. Melon balls and shaped fruit pieces.
Frozen Juice Popsicles: Freeze no-sugar added natural juice in ice-cube containers, add toothpicks or popsicle sticks.
Written By: Jaclyn Pritchard, Registered Dietitian
DISCLAIMER: This information is for entertainment purposes only. The recommendations may not work for you, and should not take the place of the recommendations made by your own medical personnel. We are not responsible for the outcomes of any recommendations. Do not make any drastic changes to your diet without the supervision of your doctor/dietitian. For more information, please see a Registered Dietitian in your area. To find one, visit http://www.dietitians.ca/.