It’s common for toddlers to go through phases where they only accept foods of a certain color or texture. Having a picky eater in the family can be very stressful but it’s considered a normal phase of development that many children grow out of. Your job as the parent is not to cater to all of your picky eater’s requests but to provide a variety of healthy foods for them to choose from. This Family Wellness Month, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Outpatient and Community Liaison Dietitian Allie Lang, RD, LDN, has some tips for dealing with picky eaters.
Eat as a Family
Modeling healthy eating for your child is a great way to get them to try new foods. Provide one meal for the whole family that includes at least one food your picky child will eat. Avoid classifying foods as “kid foods” and “adult foods.”
Allow Your Child to Refuse Meals
If your child refuses to eat, resist the urge to make another meal. If your child always gets another meal, they’ll be less inclined to try what is first provided. Allow your child to sit with the food they have refused, but avoid pressuring them to eat or punishing them if they don’t eat. This can make them dislike the food even more.
Just because your child refuses a food today doesn’t mean they’ll hate it forever. It can take over 10 times for a child’s taste buds to become accustomed to a new food. Offer new foods in very small amounts to limit waste and wait two weeks before trying to introduce the food again.
Get Them Involved
Children love hands-on activities and are more inclined to try a food if they were involved in making it. Giving them a choice in meal planning (for example, saying, “Would you rather try broccoli or carrots tonight?”) makes them feel more in control of what they are eating. Exploring foods with their hands and eyes is an important part of eating for a child. Let them play with their food!
Set Regular Meal and Snack Times
Children thrive on routines. Try to have meals and snacks at the same time daily. Make sure your child doesn’t have a snack at least three hours before dinner so they are hungry when trying new foods.
All these tips take patience and flexibility. Being persistent and consistent helps manage your child’s expectations of meals and gives them a feeling of comfort. Before you know it, they’ll be trying new foods and your family will be enjoying meals a lot more!
Want to learn more about dealing with picky eaters? Contact the Nutrition Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital at 617-983-4455 to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.
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