When your child is a picky or fussy eater, it can lead to frustration and perhaps disagreements in your home. It’s important to realize that there are ways you can ensure your child has healthy, nutritious kids’ meals and eventually learns to be a well-rounded eater.
It just takes time, and it can be a process. A lot of kids have to learn good eating habits, rather than just naturally having them.
The following are some tips to help you along the way if you have a picky eater.
Motivate with Rewards but not Bribes
Rewards can be a good source of positive motivation for kids, but they shouldn’t be framed as a bribe.
For example, rather than telling your child you’ll give them candy for eating, you might try a sticker chart. Each time your child tries something new, they get a sticker. When they’ve accumulated enough, maybe they exchange their stickers for a prize.
Involve Your Child in Cooking
Kids will be more engaged with eating food if they’re involved in planning and preparing it. It’s a lot of fun for kids to have input as far as what you eat throughout the week.
You can also give them age-appropriate tasks to help with when you’re making meals.
As they get older and more experienced in the kitchen, you can increase the complexity of the tasks and their level of responsibility.
Make Healthy “Junk Food”
There are a lot of ways you can make traditional junk food into something more healthy. For example, you might make whole wheat English muffin pizzas, or you could make your own chicken fingers or nuggets. You can also use pureed fruit to make snacks like popsicles.
Teach Your Kids About Where Food Comes From
There can be a lot of value in helping kids understand where food originates from. This is something they can carry with them throughout their lives. Help your picky eater by getting them interested in the origins of their food.
For example, maybe you start a small garden or even a windowsill herb garden.
Showcase Your Own Good Eating Habits
Remember that so much of what your kids do is based on what they see you do as their parent.
Show them what it is to try new and healthy foods, have a varied diet, and enjoy eating nutritious foods.
Gradually Introduce New Foods
Don’t try to introduce too many foods too quickly to a picky eater. Start slow.
Go with one food at a time.
Understand too that there will be some foods your child just doesn’t like, but trying new things is what’s most important.
Be Mindful About Snacks
Finally, your child may not always eat the way you’d like them to at mealtimes, and if that’s the case, try and always have healthy snacks on hand. It’s better to eat healthy snacks than not to eat at all or to eat snacks that are full of empty calories.
Rather than feeling frustrated with your picky eater, try to get creative in how you help your child get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.