Let’s admit it–we all have foods we don’t love, but does that make us a “picky eater”? According to Webster’s Dictionary, picky is described as “hard to please” or being “too careful about choosing or accepting things”, so when you apply that principle to food, it’s no wonder that the term “picky eater” applies to many of us. However, children seem to have this concept down to a T! They seem to know just how to turn down food to get another item that they want instead (cue exchanging broccoli for chocolate), which can make it extremely difficult to have them eat nutritious foods. Many parents complain that they have to make separate dinners just to satisfy their child, or bribe them with toys just to eat their vegetables. So, here are a few ideas that will hopefully help get the pickiest of eaters to start trying new foods!
- Involve them in the meal planning process. When you have your kids involved with what you cook, they feel more in charge of what is going on their plate, and therefore have a higher chance of eating it. Show them pictures of beautiful looking meals featuring produce, whole grains, and dairy and see what they gravitate towards!
- Get kids involved in food preparation. The more that children are involved in cooking, the more willing they will be to tasting it. You can assign duties to the younger kids such as washing vegetables, slicing berries (with a plastic knife for safety!), or cutting out shapes for pizza dough. Older kids can peel produce and use safe utensils to chop harder fruits, vegetables, and other menu items. Blenders, food processors and mixers are great tools for older children to use in the kitchen, as they require minimal supervision and provide maximum results.
- Be patient. it can take up to 15 times for someone to get used to new flavors and textures of a new food. A great rule is for them to taste it 2-3 times before they say they don’t like it.
- Use a divided plate. To ease an overwhelming feeling of too much food on a plate use a divided plate or separate small bowls.
- Don’t shy away from condiments. Dipping and sprinkling with condiments makes trying new foods fun and tasty. A few examples are salsa, guacamole, hummus, olives, mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, tamari or soy sauce.
- Bridge with the familiar. If they like French fries, make sweet potato fries; if they like roasted carrots try roasted parsnips, beets, or rutabagas.
- Plant a Garden. This is a fun activity to do with your children, as they can help pick out the produce, plant the seeds, and harvest the results. It’s a great way for them to get more involved and take pride in the food they planted.
- Positive Peer Pressure. When kids watch others eat something they might not typically eat, it encourages them to try it. Get friends and family on board with this and have them encourage your children to try new things because they are.
How do you deal with picky eaters? Let us know in the comments!
Edited by Sarah Achleithner, Nutrition Communications Coordinator for Triad to Wellness