Preventing picky eating requires a proactive approach. As parents, we often struggle with introducing new foods and ensuring proper nutrition for our children. But there are things you can do to ensure good eating habits for your child that last them a lifetime. Below are some tips to help your child become a great eater right from the start!
You and Your Child’s Responsibilities
When it comes to feeding and mealtimes, our job is to plan what is on the menu for meals and snacks, when you will have them, and where you will eat. Making mealtimes pleasant and modeling good mealtime behavior goes a long way as well!
We need to trust our children to eat the amount they need and the foods they enjoy.
Importance of Family Meals for Preventing Picky Eating
Family meals allow us to model good eating behaviors to our children and instill healthy eating habits. Research shows that children who have family meals eat better, do better in school, and learn to appreciate a variety of different foods.
Family meals are an excellent time to expose your child to various foods. Serve your child what you are eating at mealtimes instead of only serving them the food they like.
How Your Child Learns to Eat New Food
When you serve a new food at mealtimes, it may take several times of being offered that food before your child will eat it. It is okay if they ignore the food or only want to touch or lick the new food before eating it. If your child tells you they do not like it or do not try it, keep offering new foods at meals.
Tips for Mealtimes
- Prepare your family one meal, and do not offer your child an alternative
- Have one or two foods at each meal that your child does enjoy
- When serving “new” foods for your child, serve it with a food that they do enjoy
- Limit eating outside of scheduled meal and snack times. This will help your child come into meals hungry, which makes them more willing to eat and try new foods.
A Typical Scenario to Prevent Picky Eating
Jonny is a 3-year-old, picky eater. His mom is getting ready to prepare his dinner. She has decided that the family meal will be at 5:30 pm, and they will eat at the kitchen table. She has decided to serve the grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and asparagus.
Jonny has never tried asparagus. He likes potatoes and will sometimes eat grilled chicken. At 5:30, everyone comes to the dinner table to eat. Jonny’s plate has chicken, potatoes, and asparagus on it. He eats all his potatoes and one bite of his chicken and does not want to eat the asparagus. He picks up and smells the asparagus but then decides not to taste it. His caregiver does not force or pressure him to finish his plate and trusts that he is eating enough for his body’s needs. Once mealtime is completed, he is allowed to get up from the table and will have the opportunity to eat again at his next scheduled snack time. In the future, Jonny will have the chance to try asparagus again at another meal.