Ah, dinnertime, a pleasant time for families to unwind, relax and talk about the events of their day … right? For many parents, dinnertime is more like a battlefield, especially when picky eaters are involved.
If you’re spending less time eating and more time bribing, begging and coaxing your child to try something new, or cutting the crusts off of bread, or removing all green objects from your child’s plate, these five tips may help:
Cook Meals Together
Although it may take longer and be a bit messier, let your picky eater help you prepare meals. A Columbia University study found that kids who took part in the cooking process were more likely to eat healthy foods, such as veggies and whole grains, and to ask for second helpings. Let your child be your sous chef by assigning some simple tasks, such as breaking an egg or measuring spices. Better yet, allow your child to choose what they want to cook and involve her or him in the grocery shopping process as well.
Bribing your children to eat (“You can only have dessert if you finish all of your broccoli!”) and heaping praise when they do take a bite of something new may actually reinforce picky eating behavior. Instead, stay neutral. Place the food in front of your children, encourage them to take a bite, and then let them be. If they refuse to eat, just remove the food calmly at the end of the meal.
Cut the Snacks
Too many snacks between meals may fill your child’s belly and make your child less likely to eat at mealtime. Cut down the overall amount of snacking, including beverages and healthy foods, and don’t allow any snacks within two hours of each meal.
De-emphasize the Clean Plate
Insisting that kids clean their plate may backfire, resulting in pickier eaters. Instead, encourage your child to take at least one bite of everything on the plate. Although no one wants food to go to waste, forcing a child to eat every last bite may cause him or her to ignore internal feelings of being full or to associate mealtime with stress and anxiety.
Stay the Course
It may take 10 or more attempts before a child develops a taste for new foods, so don’t give up. Tastes change as children age, and so foods they once abhorred may someday not seem quite so yucky to them. Keep introducing new foods, be patient and, most importantly, be a model of healthy eating yourself.
What method have you tried for getting your kids to enjoy new foods? Share them with us in the “Comments” section below.