Teaching your child to eat what's set before him is important. If you've ever seen an adult pick through his food at a private dinner party or out in a restaurant, you understand its importance.
Some kids love trying new food and adventurously try whatever you set before them, but let's face it, none of us know those kids.
So what should we all do when our children inevitably go through picky eating phases? As parents, how should we deal with our little picky eaters?
Let me suggest ten helpful tips in no particular order.
1. Keep introducing new foods
As early as possible, begin introducing different types of food into your child's diet. It's helpful to keep introducing foods with different textures (e.g., crunchy, mashed, cubed, grainy, chunky, etc.) and different tastes (e.g., sour, bitter, salty, sweet, etc.).
Being consistent with introducing new varieties will help your child develop a diverse pallet.
2. New foods during snack time
It's easy to avoid introducing new foods because it turns mealtime into a war. Instead, consider introducing new foods during snack time. Start with something small—like a single pea—and then keep working that same new food into your child's diet.
Dr. Keith Williams, a PhD, teaches that if you are consistent with introducing new foods, your child should start accepting new foods after you introduce them six times.1 So stick with it!
3. Blend it up
If your child is still really struggling to get veggies down, consider blending them up. Most kids will stomach anything, so long as it's in a smoothie. For a fun twist, see if they can tell what secret food you put in their smoothie!
4. Make their favorite foods healthy
Does your child love mac and cheese? Consider making your own rather than buying the fake powder cheese. Does he like PB&J? Make it using whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, and sugar-free jelly.
5. Pick the right combinations
Consider pairing a favorite food with a food your child doesn't like as much. Does your child like cheese? Pair it with little pieces of apples or pears. You'll find that they'll more readily accept foods they don't like when you keep them connected to old favorites.
6. Stay positive
It's easy to rail on kids for liking junk food. It's often much more effective, however, to focus instead on the positive virtues of healthy food.
How does this look like in real life? When you child comes in for a snack and goes for the chips, don't immediately go off about how unhealthy chips are. Rather, suggest another healthy snack: "I'm cutting up an apple over here, let me get you one of these slices. This apple tastes really good."
7. Get your child involved in preparing food
Child often respond to new foods better when they have the opportunity to help prepare it. Having a hand in the preparation gives them a sense of ownership.
Getting your child involved can be as simple as letting them hand you the food as you prepare it. If you want them to eat more veggies, consider planting some together in a small garden plot. The more points of connection they have with the food, the more likely they'll be to enjoy it.
8. Give food new and fun names
Let's be honest, if you had a choice between "carrots" and "super vision carrots," it wouldn't be a hard one. Your kids will often respond better to a food if you can make it fun and inviting. Get creative with some new fun names.
9. Go stealth
While you should never lie to your kids, there's nothing wrong with sneaking some health foods into your regular foods. Add a bit of chopped broccoli to spaghetti sauce or a few pureed fruits or nuts into oatmeal.
10. Be a role model
As with most areas of life, your children will look to your example. I'm not saying you have to deliberately eat everything you hate, but that you shouldn't have a rule for your child that you're not willing to follow yourself.
Your child will often find motivation to like certain foods if you like them. For instance, if you want your child to start eating more healthy, begin eating a salad each day. Over time, introduce it to your child, stressing how much you love salads.