Parenting is not always fun and games, especially if your children are picky eaters. When mealtimes have become war zones, you may find yourself acting desperate to get your child to eat. The last thing you want to do is reduce every bite of food into a battle of wills.
These seven tips for finicky feeders can help you stop the food negotiations and return peace to your happy home.
1. Be a Good Role Model
If your child observes your own pickiness, then you shouldn’t be surprised when he or she demonstrates that same behavior. Offering a variety of foods and show that you too are willing to sample new foods or that every meal does not have to be your favorite. If your own palate needs some improvement, you can try to be adventurous along with your little one and branch out a bit.
2. Don’t Force Food
Young children may not have much of an appetite, but if they are growing well and hitting developmental milestones, you should not worry too much about the amount of food they consume. Remember, it’s not the quantity of food, but the quality of food that counts. If you continue to offer small amounts of healthy, nutritious foods at mealtimes or for snacks, your child can let you know when he or she is hungry for more.
3. Lighten Up a Little
Try not to be so rigid about meals. Instead, make mealtime fun for everyone. It may take some effort to bring creativity to the table, but it can help you stress less about your picky eaters. Some things you may want to try include breakfast for dinner, sandwiches or quesadillas cut into fun shapes, or a taco or pasta bar where family members can add the toppings they want.
4. Make It Once
Stop yourself from becoming a short-order cook. It’s easy to see how parents fall into this trap: they want to see their children eat, so they make favorites foods to appeal to their kids. The downside of this pattern comes
5. Be M
indful at Mealtimes
Honestly, this advice is good for the whole family. Minimize any distractions, such as cell phones or the television, during meals. Conversation around the table is entertainment enough, and you can focus on the food itself, savoring the flavor and appreciating the preparation. Your children can learn a lot about gratitude as well positive eating habits when, as a family, you slow down and truly taste the food on your plate.
Everyone has a role. Children who help with food preparations may be more likely to try their creations, so get them involved with cooking. Even young children can help in the kitchen with simple tasks that don’t involve burners or knives. Sure, it can bet messier and take longer, but it can also be a great way to bond and spend quality time together, especially when you and your little sous-chefs taste the fruits of your labors.
6. It Balances Out
When nutritionists talk about a well-balanced diet, they may not mean at every meal. A balanced diet is more about getting the nutrition your body needs throughout the day rather than eating something from each food group every time you sit at the table. By spreading out nutritious foods all day long, including snacks, you can ensure your picky eater has what he or she needs to stay active for learning and playing. You may even want to try five small meals rather than three big ones so that your children don’t demand snacks that can affect their appetites when breakfast, lunch, or dinner is served.
7. This Too Shall Pass
You are not alone; plenty of parents know exactly what you are going through. The good news is that most picky eaters outgrow this phase, but even if they don’t, you shouldn’t worry about them not eating enough unless they are not growing, playing, or learning as they should. You can also reach out to other parents who have experienced this issue in their families to see what advice they can offer or what worked for them.