Talkeetna: (907) 733-2273 ~ Willow: (907) 495-4100 ~ Wasilla: (907) 376-2273

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How To Deal With A Picky Eater?

Food preparation is a challenge in itself, and dealing with a picky eater can test your patience. It’s natural for children between the ages of 2 and 5 to be cautious with the food they eat because they are still exploring textures and their environment. But, good nutrition is important for kids to help them grow healthy and strong. How can you encourage your child to eat the food you prepare? Here are some inventive and resourceful tips to make mealtimes a success.

1. Stick to the good stuff.

If your child loves nothing but noodles, you can still balance out the rest of their nutritional intake for the week. Be creative. Sometimes children are only keen on the looks of the food. Colorful noodles made of veggies can be attractive. Keep it healthy by using a tool like a spiralizer to create noodles out of certain vegetables like carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and more. There are a variety of these on the market shop around and pick one that fits your budget and needs. Don’t like veggies? Here’s how you can sneak it into your child’s diet.

ProTip: Young children are still exploring tastes and textures. You can help them learn to accept a wider variety of flavors by also offering a wider variety of textures. For example, if they don’t like sliced carrots or zucchini, try offering them up in one of the forms below instead:

  • smooth or blended
  • mashed but lumpy
  • grated
  • chopped
  • ground
  • spiraled

2. Don’t force it.

If your child has a different appetite pattern or does not have one, don’t force a meal or snack. Similarly, please do not force your child to eat certain foods or clean up their plate. These tactics can lead to a bad relationship with food and might cause anxiety and frustration when they feel natural hunger or fullness cues.

3. Have a regular eating schedule.

Feeding your child at different times of the day not only keeps you busier more often but also interferes with your child’s appetite. For example, filling up on snacks at random times of the day might ruin your child’s appetite when it’s time for a proper meal. Therefore, set specific times for meals and snacks.

Don’t let your child over-indulge in snacks, healthy or not. Serve small portions to satisfy them throughout the day to ensure they will have an appetite for the coming meal.

4. Introduce new foods gradually.

Patience is vital when it comes to introducing unfamiliar foods. Children explore foods by touching, smelling, and even trying food in tiny bits. The key to this is repeated exposure to a new food.

It might take time for your child to finally take a chance on that particular food but be patient. Sometimes young children are careful about the texture, color, and taste of food, so it is equally important to discuss different foods’ characteristics with your child.

Pro Tip: Try making the experience fun. Give new foods a story or interesting name that piques their curiosity. For example, tell the children’s story about the lumberjack Paul Bunyan and then you can refer to broccoli as Paul’s “little trees cooked just for them by Sourdough Sam!” Making meals fun can increase your success when introducing healthier food options that your child might need to develop a taste for.

So hang in there and continue to encourage your child to eat healthier by serving healthy foods.

5. Don’t give in to short orders.

Avoid preparing separate meals for your child after rejecting the food you initially prepared. This behavior fosters picky eating and might put you in a difficult situation especially if you have more than one child. If your child doesn’t want to eat, let him or her stay seated at the table while everyone is enjoying the meal at the designated time.

6. Be creative!

Let’s face it, repetitive foods, no matter how good, can become tiresome. So, try different recipes or be inventive with your cooking. Children love bright colored things; the same can also apply to food. Colorful meals can encourage your child to try out a new dish that they might like.

Colorful foods don’t have to be artificially colored. Use a variety of vegetables with different contrasting colors to encourage your child to take a bite. You may also want to consider using cookie cutters to make interesting and fun shapes, which can make mealtime even more fun.

7. Do not offer dessert as a reward.

It’s tempting to keep rewarding a child for making them eat their vegetables. Doing so might give the impression that healthier foods are bad and dessert is the best food, making them crave more sweets.

Selecting two nights per week as dessert nights or redefine dessert by replacing it with fruit or yogurt is an excellent way to ensure your child’s sugar intake is not excessive.

8. Be a role model.

Children are copycats. They mirror what you do. If you aim for your child to have a healthy relationship with food, you must go the extra mile to set an excellent example for him or her. If you eat and enjoy healthy foods, your child will most likely follow. Here’s a guide to healthy snacking.

9. Manage distractions.

Make it a habit for you and everyone in the family to make mealtime family time. After all, a family who eats together has a healthier relationship with food and each other. So start them young. Avoid gadgets at the table or shut off the TV when it’s time to eat. It is also important to screen what your child sees on T.V. Advertisements about sugary foods designed to entice children might ignite a desire to eat more of it in the future.

10. Let your child help out.

helping in the kitchen

Yes, you read that right. Involving your child in choosing the foods you will be putting on the table will make them more likely to try new foods. Also, avoid going to isles that contain foods you do not want your child to eat. At home, involve your child in meal preparation or setting the table. You’ll encourage them to be more responsible at home, and more likely to try out the meals they helped make. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone!

If your child’s picky eating habits are compromising growth and development, consult your pediatrician. Sunshine has a fantastic in-house pediatrician who can help you plan and encourage your child to be healthier. In the meantime, remember that you cannot make changes in your child’s eating habits overnight. You have to be patient and put consistent effort in every day to get there.

 

 

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