Prepping meals can be challenging for parents that have a picky eater on their hands. It is a constant worry as to whether your child is getting enough vitamins and nutrients from the foods they will actually eat. It can be a stressful, misunderstood experience as a parent. Keep reading to understand the science behind being a picky eater and what you can do to encourage food variety for your child.
It may make no sense to you as their parent. You love broccoli and can’t figure out why they don’t find it tasty too! But there could be many reasons why your child is more of a picky eater when it comes to meals. Here are a few possibilities that can help better explain why your child is a picky eater:
Early experiences with foods may influence your child’s eating habits as they get older. When babies first move to solids, there are a variety of pureed foods available for them to try. Research shows that the more variety of foods you have your child try, even if they don’t like it, can help avoid developing a picky eater.
A child may also get childhood eating habits from their parents. Encouraging healthy habits and behaviors with food is so important. Social cues play a big role in this. If your child doesn’t want to eat a particular food, don’t make a big deal of it, just offer it once in a while and appear relaxed if they keep avoiding it. It can actually take 10-15 days for new food to catch on - be patient!
1. Offer a variety of foods. When you’re making up your child’s lunch, snack, dinner, be sure to include foods with different textures, tastes, and a variety of fruits and veggies. It’s important to make sure there is always something you know your child likes on their plate. Adding finger foods can enhance the fun at mealtime as well. If your picky eater doesn’t eat something on their plate, don't make a big deal of it. It can take time for them to try new foods. If time permits, making shapes or animals out of the foods can make mealtime more fun as well.
2. Have them choose what foods go onto their plate. When it comes to mealtime, have your little helper pick which foods they want to have on their plate. Set out a variety of foods and give them the freedom to choose. Not only will it make mealtime more fun but will pique their interest in foods. Mealtime can be an opportunity for them to experiment with different foods and allow you to provide them with healthy food options while encouraging independence and decisiveness.
3. Eat as a family. We can’t say it enough - monkey see, monkey do. Make mealtimes a family affair. Add the same foods to your toddler's plate as you do yours and the rest of the family. It can help reduce picky eater habits when they see the rest of the family eating the foods on their plate. It will also seem like much less of a chore that forces them to stop playing and more of a fun family bonding activity.
Avoid offering your child rewards. “A couple more bite and you can have a cookie!” Although it may seem like the easy road, they will likely view eating healthy foods as a chore and will avoid them if they don’t get a reward in return for “a couple of bites.” Also try to avoid forcing foods on your child, since eating can easily become a stressful activity.
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