Kids—especially toddlers—can be incredibly picky eaters. Sometimes it’s a wonder how they thrive on the few bites they take here and there throughout the day. In most cases, a child that is growing well is eating enough. Your best bet is to focus on whether your child is consuming the right amount of the right foods. Here are 10 ways to encourage healthy and balanced eating for your picky eater.
1. Avoid Restricting Foods From Your Child’s Diet.
Never say never! Limiting access to certain foods can lead to forbidden-fruit syndrome, making kids crave what’s off-limits even more.
2. Try Not to Offer Food as a Reward.
Offer favorite treats in moderation and alongside other (healthy) favorites. Try not to offer treats to your kids as a reward for good behavior or for eating other, healthy foods.
3. Don’t Force Anything.
Insisting that your child eat a particular food might cause them to resist the food even more. The key is continually and gently encourage your child to give healthy foods a chance.
4. Serve Less Than You Expect Your Child Will Eat.
When faced with overwhelming portions, some kids flat out refuse to eat anything. Try serving small amounts of a variety of healthy foods, and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry. Allowing your toddler or kid to recognize their own hunger cues will help them create a positive relationship with food.
5. Try to Fit All Five Food Groups in Every Meal.
Keep a food diary to track whether your child is getting all five food groups at each meal over the course of a week. Tools like USDA’s MyPlate guidelines can help you ensure that your kids are getting grains, vegetables, fruits, protein and dairy at each meal.
6. Serve the Rainbow.
Kids love colorful foods, and a rainbow of foods ensures a wider range of nutrients. Think purple grapes, red apples, orange sweet potatoes and green broccoli. While grocery shopping, make a game of it: Challenge your kids to to choose at least one produce item in every color.
7. Expose Your Child to a New Food at Least Six Times.
Research suggests that it can take 6-15 times for a child to develop a taste for a new food. Don’t give up if your child rejects the food when they first try it; reintroduce the option later on at another meal.
8. Drink Water Instead of Sugar-loaded Juices.
Kids don’t need all the extra calories in juice. Stick with water, calorie-free sparkling water or naturally-flavored water with no added sugar.
9. Model Good Eating.
Kids are more likely to accept a new food if they see their parents, siblings and extended family eating healthy foods and enjoying them, too!
10. Be Patient.
Encouraging your children to eat a healthy diet can be frustrating, but take heart and be patient. Offer new foods often, and stay positive.
Implementing these 10 tips can help your little eater develop new, healthier eating habits. By gently encouraging new foods, modeling good eating behavior yourself and taking a bird’s eye view to your kid’s diet, you can set your little one up for success for years to come.
If you have questions or would like help transitioning your picky eater to Nurture Life, we are here to help. Please contact us here.