Do any of these phrases remind you of your child?
- “Ebony will only eat peanut butter sandwiches!”
- “Michael won’t eat anything green, just because of the color.”
- “Bananas used to be Matt’s favorite food, now he won’t even touch them!”
Your child may eat only a certain type of food or refuse foods based on a certain color or texture. They may also play at the table and may not want to eat. Don’t worry if your child is a picky eater. Picky eating behavior is common for many children from the age of 2 to 5 years. As long as your child has plenty of energy and is growing, he or she is most likely eating enough to be healthy. If you have concerns about your child’s growth or eating behavior, talk to your child’s doctor.
How to cope with picky eating
Your child’s picky eating is temporary. If you don’t make it a big deal, it will usually end before school age. Try the following tips to help you deal with your child’s picky eating behavior in a positive way.
- Let your kids be “produce pickers.” Let them pick out fruits and veggies at the store.
- Have your child help you prepare meals. Children learn about food and get excited about tasting food when they help make meals. Let them add ingredients, scrub veggies, or help stir food. Click here for age appropriate kitchen tasks.
- Offer choices. Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?”
- Enjoy each other while eating family meals together. Talk about fun and happy things. If meals are times for family arguments, your child may learn unhealthy attitudes toward food.
- Offer the same foods for the whole family. Don’t be a “short-order cook,” making a different meal for your child. Your child will be okay even if he or she does not eat a meal now and then.
Trying new foods
Your child may not want to try new foods. It is normal for children to reject foods they have never tried before. Here are some tips to get your child to try new foods:
- Small portions, big benefits. Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. When they develop a taste for more types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
- Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food. Offering more new foods all at once could be too much for your child.
- Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.
- Offer new foods first. Your child is most hungry at the start of a meal.
- Sometimes, new foods take time. Kids don’t always take to new foods right away. Offer new foods many times. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
Make food fun!
Help your child develop healthy eating habits by getting him or her involved and making food fun! Get creative in the kitchen with these cool ideas.
- Cut a food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters.
- Encourage your child to invent and help prepare new snacks. Create new tastes by pairing low-fat dressings or dips with vegetables. Try hummus or salsa as a dip for veggies.
- Name a food your child helps create. Make a big deal of serving “Maria’s Salad” or “Peter’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner.
- Click here for more fun food ideas!
As the caregiver, you play the biggest role in your child’s eating behavior. What you say has an impact on developing healthy eating habits. Negative phrases can easily be changed into positive, helpful ones! Phrases that help and hinder.