Kids are sometimes super picky. One child I knew once went three weeks eating nothing but grilled cheese and tomato soup. He even wanted it for breakfast and when presented with something else, would fuss and throw a tantrum. Unfortunately, having a picky eater or two often makes mealtimes super crazy, stressful, and full of energy.
Luckily, kids go through phases. The grilled cheese eater eventually did move on to other foods and now eats whatever his family is eating. In order to get from the child who will eat only one food to a child who will try new dishes (even vegetables) takes some time and patience. Here are the five tips you can use to help introduce new foods to your picky eater.
Five Food Tips
Make it fun! Kids love finger foods, roll-ups or even food art. Turning broccoli into a tree or making banana/wheat pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse is often the way to first catch their interest. Food that is attractive to all the senses is often the food that gets eaten first.
Get them involved. Make menu creation and dinner a true family event. Kids have great ideas and when they know they’re a part of the process, they will often be more receptive to new ideas. If you make the rule that you have to have one vegetable at night, let your child choose between green beans or a salad. It’s also a great idea to give kids chores during meal prep so they take more pride in what’s being served.
Introduce variety. Don’t be afraid to try something new. One family made a rule that they had to try one new fruit or vegetable every week for the summer. They bought one item every week, discussed how they would cook it, and each had to take one bite of it. Some things they simply didn’t like and this was OK. But as of today, they’ve added pomegranates, star fruit, quince, beets and Brussels sprouts to their dinner selections.
Don’t make a big deal of it. Not everyone will like everything you serve. If your child decides he can’t stand corn, that’s fine. Simply allow him to opt out of that during meal times without making a big deal out of it. The rule in some families is that new items have to be tasted at least once. But once he tries it once, then his likes or dislikes are valid. By removing emotions from the food choices at the dinner table, you are also removing any power struggles that could occur.
Praise, praise and more praise. When it comes to food, negative consequences often backfire. It’s almost always better to use positive praise when you catch your child trying something new or becoming a little more adventuresome.
No picky eater will change overnight. It takes time to affect real, lasting change. But – given time and praise, even your picky eater will start to become a little bolder when faced with new options.