Do You Know What To Do If Your Child Is a Picky Eater?
You know the importance of good nutrition and exercise, but how do you feed a picky eater or encourage a child who hates sports to play outside? Learn how to keep your child healthy with the right foods and exercise.
by Mayo Clinic Staff
"If children's nutrition is a sore topic in your household, you're not alone. Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don't eat. However, most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. Until your child's food preferences mature, consider these tips for preventing mealtime battles"
No. 1: Respect your child's appetite — or lack of one
- Don't force a meal or snack
- Don't bribe (will ignite or reinforce a power struggle)
- Serve small portions (so it isn't so overwhelming)
No. 2: Stick to the routine
- Serve meals and snacks about the same time each day
- Provide juice or milk with meals and snacks
- Provide water for the inbetween times (filling up on drinks decreases appetite)
No. 3: Be patient with new foods
- It might take a few times of serving the new food before your child will like it or even try it, but keep trying
- Encourage new foods by talking about the shape, texture, color, and smell (not about whether it tastes good)
- Serve new foods along with favorites
No. 4: Make it fun
- Provide a dip or sauce for veggies
- Change it up by offering breakfast foods for dinner
- Serve a variety of brightly colored foods
No. 5: Recruit your child's help
- Involve your child in selecting the fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods from the store
- Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat (Don't give them the option of eating unhealthy foods)
- Involve your child in the preparation of foods (washing veggies, stirring, setting the table, etc)
No. 6: Set a good example
- If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow your example
No. 7: Be creative
- Sneak some healthy foods into favorite dishes.
- For example: Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
No. 8: Minimize distractions
- Turn off the tv and other electronics during mealtimes. (This will help your child focus on eating) (Keep in mind that tv ads might encourage your child to want the unhealthy junk foods)
No. 9: Don't offer dessert as a reward
- Bribing with dessert sends children the message
that the dessert is the best food (this might make
your child want the sweet stuff even more)
- Select a few nights a week as designated dessert nights
or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt, or other healthy choices.
No. 10: Don't be a short-order cook
- Your house is not a restaurant.
- If you give in and let your child dictate what foods he is she wants instead of the food you have already prepared, it will encourage the picky eating.
- Encourage your child to stay at the dinner table for the whole meal time.
- Keep serving the healthy foods until they become familiar and preferred. (Don't give them unhealthy options)
"If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your child's doctor. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days. The big picture might help ease your worries. A food log can also help your child's doctor determine any problems. In the meantime, remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight — but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating."