As parents, most of us are familiar with picky eaters. Children are picky about food at different levels, and since it’s important for our children to eat healthily and get all the nutrients they need, we often feel meal times turning into battlefields of anger and stress. The following 10 rules include some tips, ideas, and solutions for dealing with picky eaters, and they’ll help you make your meals more enjoyable and healthier for your children, and more relaxing and efficient for the whole family.
1. Use the "food chain" rule
Naturally, there’s nothing that picky eaters shy away from more than an unfamiliar dish on their plate. One of the most effective ways to expand your child’s palate is by avoiding just dropping something new and unfamiliar on to them. Instead, try introducing it to them slowly. For example, if the child dislikes fries, don’t immediately offer them sweet potatoes fries thinking they’ll take to it quickly, rather start by cutting the fries differently or buying a different brand.
After experiencing different brands, or shapes, you’ll see them start to approach their plate with more confidence, this is when you should move on to adding food that is similar in taste but different in texture, a baked potato. Later on, move on to mashed potatoes, then mashed potatoes with grave, and then finally to sweet potatoes. The reason the method works is that the food chain is customized to the child’s preferences, and the rate at which you move down it is customized to your child. In this way, instead of feeling pressure to try a brand-new food, the child makes their way to the target at their own pace.
2. Get rid of boredom eating
Many children are used to snacking throughout the whole day simply out of boredom. This shortens the time between each meal, therefore, leading to the child not being hungry. Of course, when we aren’t really hungry we grow pickier, and the desire to eat healthily is further reduced. This doesn’t mean that children shouldn’t have a snack between meals, but there is a difference between a light snack and eating to fill the time. If you find your child asking for one snack after another when they aren’t really hungry, try to get them busy with something else, or see if there would be a way to fill the time productively. Beyond breaking the boredom, activities also help create appetite so that by the time meal time comes around, they’ll be hungrier and more open to trying new foods.
3. Start eating healthy at breakfast
Begin by being organized in the morning. Give up the last-minute feeding attempts, and try to do your best to spend at least 10 minutes around the table. Try serving food options that don’t take long to make such as fruits, yogurts or even shakes. A more pleasant and relaxed atmosphere will turn the meal into a stress-free family moment that can really have its effect on the rest of the family’s day. Also, once you know that the children have eaten something healthy in the morning, you’ll feel less worried.
4. Understand that children eat with their eyes
When food is served more aesthetically we enjoy it that much more. Some kids might take to a veggie skewer better than a plain old salad, and some might enjoy their smoothie out of a cool cup instead of a plain old glass cup, the point is that presentation matters. Although none of us is a chef, everyone can find a creative way to serve food, trust us, it makes a world of difference.
5. Involve your kids in the cooking process
Let your child discover what goes on "behind the scenes" by making them your sous chef. Introduce them to the ingredients, give them some responsibilities and turn the meal from a stressful activity into a project your kid will be proud to have taken part in. During the preparation, taste the food yourself and suggest your child have a taste as well. allow them to experiment with the textures and look into the pots. If you see that your child enjoys tasting, promote them to “taste tester, explaining their importance in the end product. Bringing the child into the kitchen will enable them to develop a relationship with many types of food, make the final dishes less threatening and teach them what goes into making a meal. This process will encourage them to open up to new experiences in the field of food.
6. Turn it into a game
Another way to ease the introduction of new foods is by playing with them. For example, blindfold the child and have them guess the food using their senses: touch – the child will touch different foods (some familiar and some new) with blindfolded eyes and try to guess what it is, what the texture reminds them of and what other food is similar; smell – the child smells a few foods and says which they more and which less; taste – What does the food taste ? Is it similar to a different food they know? Is it sweet, salty or bitter?
7. Serve a meal in threes
In addition the whatever new dish you are serving, you place two more things on their play you know they like. Having familiar foods on their plate will reduce the pressure or having to eat something brand new and since the familiar part is larger than the new and unknown part, the child will feel that the food is under their control.
8. Do not lie about the contents of the plate
A suspicious look or being asked ‘What is it?’ when serving food may cause many of us to try to lie about how healthy something is, what it’s called or even attempting to hid it under a pile of familiar foods. However, this method works on few picky children, while the vast majority of them quickly uncover the lie. Some children will stop eating immediately, and others may refuse to eat familiar foods for fear of uncovering other hidden surprises within them. So, instead of sugar coating and lying, tell your kids what food is on offer and see if they want to taste it. show them that the rest of the family is eating the same food and enjoying it!
9. Get rid of policing and goal setting
During dinner, many of us do one of the following: First, we take on the role of a policeman, sitting down next to the child and supervising what is happening on their plate the whole time. This method may cause children to deliberately not eat because of the pressure – ‘if mom Is sitting next to me the food must be bad.’ Instead, try to keep your eyes of your kid’s plate during meals and about other topics. Keeping your child off the topic of food might have them eating through distraction. The second thing we do is set goals. A goal "Eat 3 more bites" eliminates the goal of eating a bite or two which the child might actually be able to do. If the child tastes the new food himself, don’t forget to compliment them at the end of the meal to end it with a positive feeling.
10. Gradually cut familiar foods out
Even when your child begins to experiment with new foods on a regular basis, don’t completely stop giving them their favorite foods, rather do it gradually. A sudden cut may cause children to think that this ‘progress’ Is actually ‘punishment’ making them revert back to their old habits. Wait until the child is completely comfortable with the new food, slowly reduce the amount familiar foods until the point that you’re only serving it once every few weeks.
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