If you’re having trouble getting your children to eat healthy (or eat at all), you’re not alone. Many parents struggle to get their children to try new foods, and eventually get so frustrated with it that they throw in the towel and allow them to eat the same foods they’ve been eating. It can take children 10 to 15 tries before they will accept a new food, so don’t give up! Here are a few tips that might make your picky eater a little more open-minded.
1. “Polite One Bite” Rule
Ask your child to at least try every food, but if they don’t like it, leave it at that… for now. Don’t force them to eat the entire serving. The whole reason you’re asking them to try the food is to get them enjoy it long term, so if you force them to eat something they aren’t enjoying, this will just cause them to be more hesitant and stubborn when you ask them to try it again in the future.
2. Don’t Give Them Milk and Juice Between Meals
By eliminating the amount of juice and milk your child drinks between meals, they’ll be less likely to feel full and refuse the food you’re providing them at meal time. Instead, only allow them to drink water. This should also make them more willing to try something new because they’ll have a bigger appetite at meal time. If your child continues to insist on having juice or milk, start decreasing the amount of liquid offered so they can build up an appetite.
3. Keep Some Familiar Foods In The Meals
Asking your child to try a new food that doesn’t contain anything they’ve ever tried before is a recipe for disaster. Instead, make sure there are some familiar foods in the meals so they aren’t completely overwhelmed. For example, if your child has never tried asparagus, maybe put a little in their pasta or on the side.This way they won’t reject the entire meal, but you should be able to get them to at least try the new food.
Kids can get into a pattern where they demand one food and refuse everything else. If you start feeding into that, it can turn into a never-ending battle. Instead, offer a similar item that should help to satisfy whatever craving they are having. Not only does this prevent boredom, but it also helps to keep their diet balanced and provide them with an array of different nutrients.
5. Get Creative!
Kids are drawn to a colorful and fun presentation, so try cutting the foods into different shapes with cookie cutters or use food dye to make the food come to life! You can even try giving it a fun name! Sounds strange, but researchers at Cornell University ran a study where they gave preschoolers carrots, and were blown away when the kids ate twice as many carrots when they were called “X-ray vision carrots” as opposed to “carrots.” Use your imagination and get creative!
6. Keep Fruits and Veggies in Sight
This is a similar tactic that nutritionists suggest for adults who are looking to eat healthier - simply keep fruits and vegetables in a bowl where they are easily seen. If they are stored out in the open your child may be more likely to choose a fruit or veggie for a snack instead of the box of oreos which are hidden away in the pantry. Remember - out of sight, out of mind.
7. Get Them Involved
Showing your little ones what goes into the meal can get them excited and actually make them want to try it! You can teach them about the food and let them try parts of it along the way so they are more comfortable trying the entire meal later. Talk about the color, shape, aroma, and texture with them, but don’t discuss weather it tastes good or not.
8. Change Up How It’s Cooked/Prepared
You can try to keep introducing food to your children by changing the way the food is prepared. For example, try roasting, sauteing, and steaming broccoli if your child doesn’t like it raw. You can also try baking blueberries and other fruit into muffins which can help to bring out their sweet flavors and may open their minds up to eating them raw, later. Or, try adding different flavors to meat or veggies that you know they already like (teriyaki sauce, garlic, lemon, etc) so that the aroma will intrigue them to try it. Keep trying to serve your child these healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
What have you tried to get your picky eater to eat? Did it work? Let us know below in the comments!