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5 Tips for Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters

If you’re a parent of small children, you know the routine: the arms cross, the nose crinkles, the mouth clamps furiously shut, and the distrustful stare begins. This is a common reaction from kids who don’t like the food placed in front of them. Whether it’s Brussels sprouts, broccoli, fish, or fowl, some kids have a very particular palate.

Picky eaters resist many familiar foods, while others may completely reject new foods. The rejection of unknown foods, known as food neophobia, is often associated with poor dietary quality.

Not every picky eater has a poor diet, but it’s still important to help your kids consume the nutrients necessary to function and thrive. Children (as well as adults) may become deficient in key nutrients if they avoid many of the foods that provide vitamins and minerals.

If you want to help your little ones expand their food horizons, here are some ways to encourage them.

Set a good example. If you won’t eat spinach, it’s unlikely your 5-year-old will even touch it. It’s important to be a good role model and eat a healthy variety of foods. If you have good eating habits, such as enjoying nutritious snacks, eating together at the table, and not skipping meals, your kids are more likely to follow suit.

Try some variety. Don’t get caught in a food rut with only your family favorites on repeat. Get creative with new recipes, or replace ingredients with something different, like quinoa instead of rice. You could introduce “new food Friday” or a similar tradition that celebrates experimentation with a new vegetable or ethnic cuisine once a week.

Make it fun. One of the best ways to get kids to try something new is to make it fun! Jazz up plain veggies by offering them with hummus, salsa, or yogurt-based dressings. Let kids make their own personal pizzas with fresh tomatoes and peppers or add toppings to baked potatoes, like broccoli and asparagus.

Plant a garden. Getting in the dirt, watering seeds, watching plants grow, and harvesting the bounty are great learning experiences for kids. When they see where their food is coming from, they may be more interested in eating the tasty results of their hard work and nurturing.

Get them involved. Encourage children to create a healthy menu, take them to the store to help pick groceries, and let them help cook the meal. If children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they may be more interested in eating what they’ve created.

Who’s in charge? Remember: As the parent, you are in charge. Some parents may find themselves becoming a short-order cook, preparing different foods that appease everyone’s tastes. Since we can’t always get what we want, it may be best not to set this expectation at all.

When you go grocery shopping, be mindful of what you are buying. Keep junk food out of the house, and instead keep it stocked with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

If you are dealing with a picky eater, you may need to serve a new food many times before it is accepted. Offering new or disliked foods in a positive, supportive environment may lead to acceptance, and eventually your child may even like them. If kids are pressured to eat something, it may result in the opposite effect. Never force children to eat something, but ask them to at least try one bite.

If you are still concerned about your child’s limited diet and nutrient intake, consider chewable supplements to fill nutritional gaps.*

Be patient and stick with it! Nutrition is a lifelong practice that we all need to work on every day.

Tagged in: wellness

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.