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Is your child a picky eater? Do you worry about what he or she eats when away at school? Are mealtimes difficult to say the least? To help end the struggle and make breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack-time easier, follow these 10 tips
- Set a Good Example: Food behavior patterns begin in childhood and often last; therefore it’s critical to get children on the right track from a young age. Children observe adults and follow their lead, especially around eating habits, so it’s important that the adults make healthy and balanced food choices.
- Eat The Rainbow: Every day offer children a mix of protein, whole grains, and different colored fruits and vegetables to make sure they are getting the ample nutrients their bodies need.
- Keep Serving Sizes Small: Especially when kids are trying food for the first time, one tablespoon of steamed spinach or broccoli is enough to give them a variety of nutrients and allow them to sample the flavor of a particular food.
- Limit Sugary or Sweet Liquids: The best way to ensure children will eat their meals is to put a strict limit on sweet beverages. For children ages 1 to 6 keep natural unsweetened fruit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day. That’s ½ to ¾ of a cup. Avoid soda, artificial sweeteners and juice with added sugars. It’s best to offer children plain water as well as natural fruit juice.
- Talk About Food: Expressing interest in the flavors, textures and colors of food helps amp up a child’s curiosity about the food they are eating and allows them to think about what is going in their mouths. Point out what food resembles and tastes like. For example, broccoli looks like a tree and cheese is creamy.
- Avoid Labeling Children: When we label a child as a “picky eater” for example, the tendency is to avoid food and use the label as an excuse to refuse food.
- Offer Choices: If your child consistently refuses a certain type of veggie, try offering an alternative.
- Connect Children to their Food: Take children to the supermarket or better yet, a farm or farmer’s market. By getting children involved in the process, they’ll be more likely to eat what they’ve picked or made.
- Get Creative: When you add your own unique spin on food and get excited about what you’re eating, kids will too. Make your own yogurt sundae bar with healthy toppings or make your own special sauce or dip for veggies. Having pre-prepared simple snacks like dried fruit and nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, apple slices or carrot sticks decreases the tendency to grab processed alternatives when you or your kids are in a hurry. Add vegetable purées in foods like baked goods or sauces or make smoothies with a handful of greens such as spinach.
- Give Thanks: Sharing words of gratitude at mealtimes, giving thanks for having enough food to eat and acknowledging those who took the time to grow the food and prepare the meal is a great way to help children appreciate the food in front of them.