So you've tried to convince your picky eater to try something new, only to be met with a scrunched-up nose and a stubborn, resounding "no." Don't lose hope — whether your child is a little hesitant around greens or is completely avoiding anything that isn't beige, we've gathered our best strategies for picky eaters to help your little one try new foods.
These expert tips come from Eka Health's founder, a pediatric gastroenterologist and mother of two. She knows firsthand the struggles that come with getting kids to eat a balanced diet, but she's also seen how small changes can lead to big improvements.
With these stress-free tips, you'll be equipped to handle even the most reluctant eaters and help them develop a healthy relationship with food.
Let your kids help out with meal prep
Everyone needs a sous chef, and yours might be more likely to eat their greens — or whatever they're hesitant to try — if they helped make it.
If your child isn't interested in prepping food, let them be involved in choosing what to eat for meals and snacks. When children are involved in the process, they feel a sense of ownership and pride in what they've helped create and are more likely to try foods because they have a personal connection to it.
Have regular meal times
Try to have set times for meals and snacks. Limit meals to 30 minutes and snacks to 15 minutes. This helps your child learn to eat when they're hungry and not just when food is available.
Grazing throughout the day or constantly snacking on small amounts of food can have negative effects on kids' eating habits and nutrition, and they may not feel hungry enough to eat a full meal at the next scheduled mealtime.
To avoid skipped meals and irregular eating habits, encourage set meal and snack times for your child.
Have meals as a family
Children love to model the behaviour of adults or older siblings. Sitting down as a family for meals encourages good eating habits and helps to establish mealtime routines, and kids are more likely to try new foods when they see others eating and enjoying them.
Ensure your child is seated in a high chair, booster seat or at the table to establish good eating habits, and remove any distractions, like the TV or toys on the table.
Introduce new foods, but don't force-feed
If you're trying to get your picky eater to try new foods, it's important not to force them to eat anything they don't like. This can create a negative association between food and mealtime. To combat this, try offering new foods on a plate with other preferred foods.
If you're not having any luck, keep trying. It can take up to 15 times before a child will accept a new food.
Have one meal for the family
Sometimes it's easier to create a separate meal for your picky eater, but doing so may make them even more resistant to trying new things. Instead, encourage them to try what is being served.
If your child is really struggling with a particular food, it's okay to offer a familiar alternative to ensure they're still getting the nutrients they need. The key is to make sure they understand that trying new things is an important part of mealtime.
Feeding a picky eater can be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be a battle. With some patience, creativity, and these helpful tips, you can help your child learn to try new foods and develop a healthy relationship with mealtime.
Remember, every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But by staying positive, you can help them become adventurous eaters in no time. So don't give up, keep trying, and happy eating!