Picky eating is a normal part of childhood development but it can get out of hand for some families leading to arguments at the dinner table and kids putting their foot down in protest. Whether your child is 5 or 15, it’s never too late to try something new and address picky eating behaviours! Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1) Don’t pressure. Remember it’s your child’s job to decide whether they eat what you offer and how much of it they will eat. Too much pressure either positive or negative can lead to more resistance. Children will learn to eat what you eat, you just have to be patient.
2) Don’t cater. Your job as a parent is to decide what foods are offered, when they are offered, and where they are offered. Offer up only one meal that is balanced and appropriate for your family and make sure there is at least one food item that your child likes. Let them serve themselves and don't comment on how much or how little of a particular food they are eating.
3) Change your food environment. Clean out your fridge and pantry and place foods you would like your family to eat more often up front and at eye level. Have cut up vegetables, yogurts, hard boiled eggs etc. readily available. Reduce the number of salty/sweet treats to the ones your family really enjoys and then keep them in the cupboard and leave a bowl of fresh fruit out instead in a high traffic area. The treats still have their place as they provide us with pleasure and should be included to teach your family about balance but they don’t need to be front and center.
4) Get children cooking. As messy as it may be, try and involve your child in the kitchen from a young age. When your child helps make a meal or snack, they will be more willing to try it! Remember it takes numerous exposures (20 or more sometimes!) before a child will accept or like a new food. Having them involved will be more effective then asking them to simply try something you have made. Remember you can start small and just cook something that everyone likes and then work your way up to trying to cook new foods together.
5) Learn about food. Bring your children to the grocery store or to the farmers’ market. Ask them to pick out a new fruit or vegetable they would like to try. You can also try growing food as children are more likely to eat something they have grown as well. This is also a great way to foster an appreciation of agriculture and the environment and learn about budgeting..
Most importantly be positive about all foods and don't give up!
Christine McPhail MSc RD