Our 10 Top Tips for Dealing with Picky Eating Habits
80% of parents worry about their children’s eating habits, you are not alone!
Teaching children to be happy and healthy eaters often feels like such a long-term goal for parents and with so many strategies, tips and advice being provided by friends, family and professionals, it can sometimes feel quite overwhelming.
So, we have done the research, and here are the top 10 tips to help prevent or deal with picky eaters:
1. Children can learn to eat, and like, all kinds of food (barring medical issues). Taste is a skill that can be acquired and learning to eat should be taught just like reading and writing. Unlike reading and writing, it can take years for a child to learn to develop a wider palate so be patient!
2. Respect your child’s hunger or lack of it. Forcing or bribing can ignite a power struggle over food and children can associate mealtimes to anxiety or frustration which may get in the way of them being sensitive to their natural feelings of hunger or fullness. Don’t offer dessert as a reward as this sends the message that dessert is the best food, and this may increase a child’s desire for sweet food.
3. Looking isn’t enough, encourage children to taste food. On average, it takes a child 7 to 12 times to try and taste a food before they accept it. So, ask children to taste the food which has been prepared, even if they don’t eat it.
4. Introduce new foods to children before they are cooked or served. Letting children help with the shopping and meal preparation are great opportunities for children to touch and smell food which increases their familiarity and helps towards acceptance. Introducing new foods with some of their favourite food can also assist towards acceptance.
5. Remember children may not like something “today”, however it may be their absolute favourite next week. Persistence and patience is required, remember it can be a long journey to acceptance.
6. Limit children’s portions on their plate. Full plates can be overwhelming for some children. Given them the opportunity to independently ask for more food.
7. Give children some control in what they eat and encourage their help with mealtime preparation. Engage children in planning and preparation of food by going shopping together, let them help with gardening to grow fruit and vegetables, go fruit picking, let children chose the recipes. Even young children can rinse vegies, stir the contents of a bowl and set a table.
8. Stick to a schedule and try and eat at the same times each day. Limit snacking between mealtimes to ensure children are hungrier at mealtimes. If a child is hungrier at mealtimes, they are more likely to eat better. Try and eat together as a family at the table and share the experience. Make mealtimes an opportunity to connect with each other and have fun without the usual day to day distractions.
9. Talk more about taste than health and set a good example. Children are more likely to eat food they see you and their peers eating and when they are told “taste this, it’s really yummy” rather than “eat this as its healthy and good for you”. Good food tastes good too!
10. Make mealtimes fun! Fruits and vegetables naturally provide lots of colour in meals. Food cutters can provide fun shapes to food and food picks can be used to transform food decoration. Children love themed plates, bowls and cutlery and smaller hands love food served on skewers and food forks.
We hope this has been helpful for you and we welcome your comments and feedback.
Wendy and the Yumyumkids team.