Help! My kids are picky eaters.

All parents are concerned with feeding their children food that will help them grow and thrive. Some children will naturally eat a variety of healthful foods, while others may be more particular. No matter, there are strategies a family can implement that will help all children grow to eat in a way that promotes a healthy relationship with food.

First, focus on creating a meaningful and joyful meal time. Sit and eat as a family whenever possible. Make meal and snack times predictable, but don’t fuss too much about how much or what they are eating. Studies show that a child will be more likely to try a food if they see an adult they know eating it, so be sure to try these foods with them. In addition, although you may have experienced otherwise, there is evidence that encouraging a child to finish a food actually results in them consuming less. So offer them foods that are new to them, and let them see you eating it with great enjoyment, without pressuring them into eating it.

Another strategy that works well when introducing a new and unfamiliar vegetable is to pair it with a yummy sauce or dip. This allows the child to develop a tolerance for the new taste because it is being experienced with something highly palatable. Offer these new foods several times, in low pressure settings.

In general, avoid using food as a reward or a bargaining tool. When there is promise of a preferred and highly palatable food, like a cookie, in exchange for trying a less desired food (Brussels sprouts), the child will actually begin to dislike the Brussels sprouts even more while cementing the preference for the cookie. Instead, try offering non-food rewards like stickers and enthusiastic praise for trying the less desired food.

Another important strategy is to limit a child’s exposure to advertisements about food as they focus mostly on highly preferred and less nutritive foods. This includes television commercials and YouTube videos, as well as magazine and radio ads.

Last, but not least – don’t take it personally! Everyone tastes differently and has different preferences. Your child can still grow up to a capable and competent eater, even if they don’t like all the things you lovingly prepare for them. Keep exposing them to a variety of foods and maintaining a positive attitude around foods.

Niki Carr

Meaningfull Foods Intern