Will your child only eat pizza or chicken nuggets? Are you fighting an uphill battle to get him to take just a bite of broccoli? If so, you’re not alone.
Picky eating is a common and normal behavior for many young children. It can be their way of declaring independence, showing preference for familiar foods, or attempting to establish control.
Most children will gradually broaden their palate as they get older, are exposed to more types of foods, and see their peers and families trying a wide variety of foods. The process can be challenging, but below are some ideas that might help to minimize mealtime meltdowns.
1. Start small
Meltdowns can occur when children feel overwhelmed, so it’s important to introduce new foods one at a time, serve them with familiar foods, and keep the portions small. Your child is likely to try just two or three green beans, as opposed to a whole pile. Be patient, praise his effort, and increase the portion next time.
2. Minimize distractions
Set your child up for success at mealtime by minimizing distractions, such as TV shows, iPads and toys. When your child is fully present, he’ll be better able to concentrate on the food in front of him.
3. Enlist your child’s help
Make grocery shopping fun by turning the experience into a scavenger hunt. Create a shopping list with your child that includes words and pictures. As you’re walking around the store, encourage him to help find the items that you need. At home, work together to prepare the meal and to set the table.
4. Grow a garden together
Create a small garden of fruits or vegetables with your child by planting seeds, watering the soil, and harvesting ripe produce. You might discover that he’s more likely to try food that he helped to grow.
5. Don’t become a short-order cook
Cooking different foods for each family member is not only time consuming, but it reinforces negative behaviors and doesn’t solve your picky eater problem long term. Instead, make meals that offer some options, such as a create-your-own burrito bar. Set out bowls of diced avocado, beans, shredded cheese and salsa, and allow your child to choose what he wants.
At the end of the day, don’t be discouraged by your child’s picky eating. It’s okay if he’s a bit reluctant to branch out and expand his culinary horizons. The process is a marathon not a sprint, so continue offering new foods in fun ways!