Local Nutritionist, Karen Schachter, MSW LLC, and Mom Since ’01, offers more mealtime magic here for the picky eater in your house. -Amy
One of the most common complaints I hear from parents about their children is, “He (or she) is such a picky eater!” Unfortunately, in today’s world of processed food and intense marketing of “kid” foods, more and more children are considered “picky,” as the more subtle flavors of natural foods are much less stimulating – and therefore often less desirable – than the intense flavors of processed foods. In addition, it is very normal for young children to prefer a narrow range of food choices, and to have their own sense of what textures, tastes and smells they prefer.
However, there are several things we can do to ensure that our children are getting a rich diet full of nutrients, while we slowly expand their repertoire of healthy options. Here are 5 of my top suggestions :
1) Instead of getting rid of all their favorites at once, “crowd out” unhealthy choices with newer, healthier versions.
2) Have the foods that you want your children to eat ready and available and slowly purge yourself of the worst offenders. Children will eventually eat what’s available.
3) Encourage the one-bite rule. For children who refuse (perhaps because of a sensitivity to the smell or texture), start with leaving the food on their plate; next time, encourage them to smell it; next time to lick it, and so on. Give lots of kudos for trying new things (they don’t have to like it, just trying it is great).
4) Eat together when possible – studies show that children who have family dinners are more likely to eat healthier.
5) Don’t tell a child he/she is “so picky” and don’t talk about their eating habits in a negative light in front of them. Instead, if they try something and don’t like it, say something like, “I’m sure you will when you’re a little older.”
Most importantly, go slowly, stay positive and don’t give up!
Editor’s Note: I love Karen’s approach, and I especially love her positive attitude — it’s got to be contagious in the kitchen in a very good way! Business of Motherhood tip: When I read Karen’s article, you can probably guess what’s going through my mind…how can I make a chart out of this? For younger kids, consider a picture chart where you title it, “I like to try new foods.” Then, put 10 boxes on the page, and let them fill in either words, hand drawn pictures, or cut outs from magazines. It lets them visualize each time they try a new food. Another approach would be to draw or cut out pictures of foods you want them to try, and let them circle each time they actually do! Of course, you’ll need some kind of reward at the end – maybe they pick the restaurant you go to for a special family outing or earn some extra bedtime? Positive thinking empowers kids. What creative ideas do you have to turn picky eaters around?
Author bio: Karen Schachter is a psychology of eating expert. As a clinical social worker and certified nutrition counselor, she works with individuals and families to help them develop positive relationships to food, eating and their bodies.