No More Picky Eaters: Part 3
Now that Halloween is over and you have pounds of candy piled in your pantry, I think it’s the perfect time to finish up this series on picky eaters – don’t you agree?! If for no one’s sake but your own, get rid of the stuff already?! Ok, sorry… that was me talking to my husband ;)
Seriously though, this time of year is tough – for all of us! With all of the holiday parties and festivities, the cookie exchanges and the never-ending spreads of food, whether your 3 or 63, it can be hard to make healthy choices and know when to just say no [to another serving of pie] and yes [to a tasty helping of roasted veggies]!
Remember, kids pick up on our habits and will be enticed by the treats if you are and say no to the crudité if you do… whether or not you’d like to admit it! So, with that in mind, here is another handful of tips in order to get you through those endless power struggles and mealtime battles – and just in time for that big feast in front of all your closest relatives! Happy eating ;)
#1) Trust Your Child’s Appetite – or Lack There Of
If your child isn't hungry for their next meal, don't force them to eat. Don’t force them to clean their plate either. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. It could also encourage bad eating habits which often last a lifetime, including becoming less sensitive to hunger and fullness cues, leading to overeating as an adult. In addition, your child may start to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration which isn’t healthy either.
Instead, serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her the opportunity to independently ask for more. You may also want to look at yourself for some of the blame here: Did you give them a snack too close to dinner, or allow them to have a treat before they got their main course?
#2) Don't Be a Short-Order Cook
Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve been here so trust me when I say the only one who gets the short stick here is YOU! By preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal will actually promote picky eating. Instead, encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat. If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat. If not, they can wait until their next snack or mealtime and have something healthy then.
#3) Stick to a Routine
With that said, just like adults, kids do best when following a routine – especially when it comes to mealtime and snacks. You don’t let them go to bed whenever they’d like, so they probably shouldn’t be eating whenever they want, either. If your child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to get the nutritious food they may have missed out on – and again, will stop the whole “short-order cook” debacle.
#4) Be Patient With New Foods
As adults, trying new foods can be scary and off-putting, so imagine what a child feels! Kids often want to touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. This is totally OK! Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite, so let him mess with them! By talking to your child about a food's color, shape, aroma, and texture — not whether or not it tastes good – will help encourage him to feel like part of the process [ending that need for a power struggle]. Just keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred. I promise it will eventually happen!
#5) Make it Fun and Be Creative
As a Chef, I love to cook and experimenting in the kitchen is my happy place! I know not everybody feels the same way here but just imagine, if you thought cooking was fun wouldn’t you be a lot more likely to do it?! Try cutting your child’s foods into various shapes with cookie cutters, making a rainbow out of vegetables, or creating a fun plant-based dipping sauce to coat their favorite foods with! Fruits and veggies can be “hidden” in practically any dish, so get creative and make it fun! Heck, you may start eating foods you would have never touched before either!
BONUS #6) - Make it Family Time and Minimize Distractions
Making meal time family time is one of the greatest things you can do as a family. Sitting down together talking about your day and learning more about what is going on in each other’s lives is a real treat, and something most of us probably take for granted. Not only will this time help you bond as a family, it will also encourage you to sit down and appreciate the foods you are eating – instead of mindlessly eating while staring at the TV or your cell phone. Moreover, you will eliminate any unnecessary distractions, including advertisements of other foods and snacks you may not want your children eating – especially when trying to get them to eat something healthier!
Now remember, your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight! However, it’s these small steps you take every day which will encourage healthy eating to be part of their lifestyle. And while they may not like it now, they will definitely be appreciative later in life! I know I am!
And if you missed the first 2 parts of my Picky Eaters serious, you can check them out HERE and HERE: No Your Kids Aren’t Destined to Be Picky Eaters and Picky Eaters: 5 Things We Can Do to Change It.
As always, I want to thank you for being part of our community! We love having you! And now, more than ever, I want to thank you all for being great Moms – because you really are a Super Hero in the eyes of those who matter most!
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