Eat This, Not That: 7 Strategies for Picky Eaters

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Whether your child is scared of a particular vegetable or refuses to eat anything thing that isn’t white, there’s no need to panic. There are several strategies you can use for picky eaters. From involving them during selection to starting small and rotating in certain foods, here are 7 strategies for picky eaters. As an added bonus: eating together as a family at dinner is a bonafide way to connect in a meaningful way.


Involve your kids during the buying and preparing process

If you have picky eaters, step one could be to involve them in sourcing and the preparation of the food. Take them to the grocery store with you and let them explore the produce and fruits. Point out all the vibrant colors and make the food-buying process a game. Let them touch and feel the texture of vegetables. When you get home, have your little ones help you get the food ready for cooking.


Let your kids play with the food

Similar to the experiment with preparation, once food is on your little one’s plate, let him touch and examine the food, even if he’s not eating any of it. If he’s getting familiar with it, he’s more apt to try it eventually. In fact, a study at the University of Eastern Finland concluded that little ones who were exposed to foods early on whether through baking and cooking or growing a garden, were more likely to choose those foods as they got older rather than junk food.


Rotate in healthier foods every couple of days

If you know your little one loves carrots, you may be tempted to offer carrots every day as a way to assure he eats. But this runs counter to effective strategies for picky eaters. To create a habit of trying new things, don’t offer the same food two days in a row. Instead, rotate in something different. It’s carrots one day, and then peas or broccoli the next.


Take tiny little baby steps toward introducing new foods

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is in offering way too much of a new food. To really get a new habit formed, you have to take the tiniest baby steps to gain momentum. Offer your picky eater one pea, a bite of broccoli, a nibble of cheese. The idea is to stress how easy it is to eat the little bite. Once your child eats that, reward him with one of his favorite foods. At subsequent dinners, increase the amount of the food he’s not sure about until he’s eating a regular portion.


Be totally transparent on ingredients; hide nothing

If you want your picky eater to trust you when it comes to good food, then that means you need to be completely honest and transparent about the ingredient list. The worst thing you can do is be dishonest and give your little one a reason to feel suspicious. As she inquires about certain foods, tell her what’s in it. And if she responds negatively, invite her to investigate the foods and be curious.


Limit the “crutch” foods and drinks

You may have a child who loves to eat snacks and juice drinks in between meals. And on the one hand, if he’s extremely picky about eating then you know he’s at least getting some nutrition with snacks. But the problem could be that if he’s eating too many snacks, he isn’t hungry by the time lunch or dinner rolls around. It’s been shown that a hungry eater may be more adventurous when it comes to trying new things. So another strategy for your picky eater is to limit the “crutch” foods and drinks.


Harness the power of peers

Even children as young as preschool can have influence over their peers. Try having one of your child’s friends over for dinner. The key is to make sure that the friend is an adventurous eater (or rather NOT another picky eater). Sometimes all it takes is for your child to see his friend eating something for him to want to try it. If that’s the case, you’ve won half the battle.   

As with any new habit, the important part is to stick with it. Studies show that it may take 10 to 15 times for a child to try something before he’ll regularly eat it. Once you get the ball rolling on tasting something, it does get easier. Encourage constant conversation around foods and before you know it, your picky eater will be long gone.

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