Guest Post written by Nourished Routes, LLC

No doubt, mealtime can be a struggle with picky eaters. Here are some easy tips and tricks to implement in order to ease mealtime tension.

  1. Make food fun!

Incorporate a variety of vibrant colors into your meals. Try cutting different food into fun shapes using cookie cutters. Try giving your meals themes such as taco night, build your pizza, or breakfast for dinner. Get creative with adding fruits and vegetables to meals your family already loves. This could be as simple as adding fresh fruit to your morning cereal or bell peppers to your spaghetti sauce. Add fun dips such as ranch to spice up snack time. Get creative!

2. Set regular meal and snack times.

Work to establish a set time for when meals and snacks will be served. Setting a regular schedule allows the child’s stomach to become accustomed and get hungry at the designated time. Find the plan that works best for you and your family and be sure to block off time for snacks.

3. Respect your child’s appetite.

Children learn to self-regulate their hunger, so it is essential to listen to them when they say they are full. By respecting their stomach cues, you are encouraging a healthy relationship with food. Avoid bribing your child to eat because this can teach them to override the feeling of fullness in favor of a reward. This kind of behavior repeated over time can lead to a power struggle between a child and food. Another great tactic is serving your child small portions of food and allowing them to ask for more food when hungry. By allowing your child to voice when they are hungry, you encourage them to listen to their body, which is a valuable lifelong skill

4. Avoid short-order cooking.

There is no reason to cook more than one meal for your family. Instead, cook multiple components and allow your child to build their plate according to their palate. If you begin preparing differently for one member of the family, this could only further encourage them to be picky. Set a precedent early that what is made for dinner is for everyone. It is lovely to include your children’s favorite proteins or sides every once in a while, but do not let them dictate every meal.

5. Expose your kids to foods in a variety of ways.

Watermelon in Salsa! You bet!

Just because they try something steamed and dislike it doesn’t mean they would dislike it roasted. Children’s palettes are always changing and evolving, so it is important to continue trying new foods in various ways. Alternating cooking styles are also a great way to avoid monotony and having a child get stuck on eating the same foods continuously.

6. Give your kids autonomy.

Recruit your children to help you grocery shop and cook. Allow them to play a role in preparing so that they can take pride in what they make. This gives them ownership of every aspect of the meal prepping process. Allow them to walk up and down the aisles at the store, ask them to grab something for you, and ask their opinion when applicable; all of these are great ways to include them in cooking. Including them in the cooking process allows them to see the time and thought that goes into every meal, leading to a greater appreciation of food.

7. Minimize distractions.

Avoid watching TV or having other electronic devices while your child is eating. Having electronic devices on or around the dinner table during a meal takes the focus away from the food and places it on the screen. Your child must be focused on eating to properly recognize cues from their body to realize when they are full. If they learn to ignore the signals from their body, it could lead to more severe issues later. Always be aware of the impact that media can have on your child’s perception of food; this can be seen in various ways through advertisements, TV, and movies.

8. Don’t offer dessert as a reward.

Experts in the field suggest using non-food rewards to motivate food acceptance in picky eaters. Examples of non-food rewards include verbal praise, stickers, extra playtime, and choosing the game during game night. Using desserts as a reward can increase a child’s desire for sweets, which can be the start of less than optimal food habits. It can also be beneficial to redefine dessert to treats with less artificial sugar. Try replacing traditional sweets with fruit, yogurt, and smoothies, which all have natural sugar.

9. Be a role model for your child.

It is no secret that children tend to copy their parents and eating is no exception. They are going to observe how you eat, so it is crucial to set a good example. If your child is curious about the food on your plate, encourage them to try it; curiosity is always encouraged in the kitchen!

10. Don’t give up.

Be persistent. Your child’s taste buds are always changing and so it is vital to give them multiple opportunities to try new foods. Just because it doesn’t go well the first time doesn’t mean hope is lost. Allow your child to become acclimated with the texture and aroma at first. Discuss the different character qualities of the food the child likes, such as color, shape, and texture. Try to avoid discussing the taste in order to keep the child intrigued, allowing your child to see new food multiple times can increase curiosity, eventually leading to tasting. You can also try implementing a “bite chart,” which logs every time a child tries something new. After so many new bites, there can be a reward such as getting to pick the game for family game night or another non-food related bonus. Be patient with the process; it takes time but is well worth the wait.

Keep in mind that every child is different and will adjust to food at their own rate. If you are concerned and are seeing no results, don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional for advice on your specific situation.

Nourished Routes, a nutrition consulting company, aims to enrich your lifestyle with interactive experiences and education. When it comes to providing nutrition therapy, their Registered Dietitians believe in a whole foods approach, 100% transparency with clients, and applying evidence-based information. Some of the nutrition services of Nourished Routes include nutrition counseling, meal plans, workshops, and much more!

Check out their website at www.nourishedroutes.com for more information and to schedule your free consultation today!

Resources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tips-for-picky-eaters

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/childrens-health/art-20044948

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/browse-by-audience/view-all-audiences/children/health-and-nutrition-information/preschoolers-picky-eating

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