Chicken fingers. Noodles with butter. Cut up hotdogs. Day in, and day out. Does this sound like the monotonous diet of your child? Well, you’re not alone. At one point or another, almost all parents experience difficulty getting their little one to try new or different foods. But because a varied diet is so important, especially during your child’s formative years, getting them to try a wide range of food is a noble cause that will help establish healthy habits that will stick. Below are some strategies to bring out your munchkin’s sophisticated little palette and help you avoid a meltdown at the dinner table.
Have a designated place for eating. All meals and snacks should occur at the same place to help your child develop a mealtime routine.
Keep your child seated. Parent should require ten minutes of sitting at the designated eating place without requiring actual eating. This helps the child feel independent and he or she may be more willing to try new foods.
Reduce distractions. To keep the child focused on eating, keep toys, books, and televisions out of sight.
Make mealtime a family time. Children need role models when it comes to eating. Have your child try the same foods the rest of the family is eating. Also, the child should join the rest of the family during meals so that he or she can observe others eating the food.
Get them involved. Involve your child in the food preparation by teaching them how to crack an egg, wash produce, and mix ingredients. This allows children to use all of their senses and interact with different foods.
Offer food frequently. Suggest eating every two to three hours, totalling three meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
Let them make choices. Giving your child options at mealtimes keeps you in control, but also gives him or her a sense of empowerment. Be sure to ask a question containing two options, as opposed to a yes or no question. For example “Would you like an apple or a pear for a snack?” Not, “Would you like an apple for a snack?”
Be patient and start early. Children often need to be exposed to a new food several times before they are willing to try it. Also, children are more likely to try new foods in the first 2-4 years of life, so begin exposing him or her to a variety of foods as soon as you can.
Be comfortable with change. The amount a child eats changes each day based on hunger and fullness. Children tend to eat alot when they are hungry, but will probably not eat that much again until they are very hungry.
Keep food in its place. Never use food as a way to reward or punish your child.
For more assistance with picky eating, visit www.familyfoodllc.com and click ‘services’ to find out about our individualized nutrition sessions or group nutrition classes for parents.