It’s no secret that eating healthy while young is important for growth and development. When you start these habits young, it helps maintain healthy eating as you age.
Healthy eating includes having a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, a variety of proteins (fish, chicken, pork, beef etc.), and oils. Healthy eating also includes being aware of your calorie intake from solid fats and sugars.
But children still go through stages when they might be pickier about the way that food looks, smells or feels in their mouth. When your child becomes fussy about their food, asking you to meticulously cut the crusts from bread or refusing to eat anything green, you might be concerned that they are not getting the nutrition they need. It may also cause a problem with the family mealtime experience.
Making peace with the picky eater.
Start by asking your child to help with meal planning. If they are able to make choices upfront, they will be more likely to eat what is served. Obviously you can’t have cheesy mac and corn at every meal, so give children a choice out of pre-selected items. For example, you might ask if they would like green beans, broccoli or peas for dinner.
Let your child help you with meal preparation. Younger children can handle dumping ingredients that you’ve measured, older children can help with stirring and mixing ingredients. Making meals a family activity keeps everyone involved.
Sticking to a mealtime routine is also helpful. With everyone eating at home more recently, it’s important to have meals and snacks at the same time every day. Set your expectations for meals including “try a bite” and “seconds.”
Remember that food should not be used as punishment or reward. Don’t bribe children to clean their plates by promising sweets. And don’t insist on the “no thank you” bite. These situations can end up causing unhappy mealtimes and potential eating disorders. Sometimes the choice to eat is more about the child having the control.
When you discover a food your child likes, you can add another food item that is similar in color, texture or taste. For example, if your child likes broccoli, you can possibly introduce cauliflower (similar texture) or Brussel sprouts (similar color). If your child likes spaghetti, you may be able to introduce spaghetti squash (similar texture) or even zoodles (zucchini noodles).
The way you serve the food can also impact your child’s tastes. Foods that look fun or eye-appealing makes kids want to try them. Use different colors, like orange carrots and white rice, to make the plate look appealing. Add the same color and texture varieties in snacks as well for example apples with cheese cubes.
Many parents worry that children don’t get enough of the right foods in the right amounts. Day to day children generally will get enough to eat. Over time, children develop different tastes which can be influenced by what you are eating and that of their friends.
For more information about helping children eat healthily, visit these links: