Not sure what to do with a picky eater who just won’t accept anything?
If you’ve become accustomed to a firm “no!”, a persistent head shake or even a mini tantrum every time you offer something new, giving your picky eater even more freedom and choice may be the last thing you want to do. But it’s also one of the best feeding strategies for picky eaters!
Below, we’ll take a closer look at two picky eating techniques that get your child involved in the overall meal experience—both when seated at the table and long before.
Technique #1: Give Your Child Choices at Mealtime
Knowing how to overcome picky eating starts with understanding the root causes, and in many cases, picky eating has more to do with mealtime environment than any particular food itself. Giving your child more choice over that environment is a great way to set a relaxed and comfortable tone—helping eliminate the environmental stressors that are so often behind picky eating behaviors.
In the short term, a child who feels in control may be more willing to try new foods. In the long term, this sense of mealtime comfort can also help your little one establish a positive relationship with food that will last a lifetime.
Young children love feeling like “big kids,” so feel free to work with that spirit of independence to conquer picky eating together! Experiment with offering mealtime choice in the following ways:
- Let your child select a dish.
Have a kid that’s begging for buttery noodles? Then make a deal: you choose one dish and your child chooses another. The caveat is that everyone at the table agrees to eat whatever is chosen by the others. In this way, you can serve an age-appropriate portion of buttery noodles while still providing well-balanced nutrients in the form familiar veggies or proteins. If you order toddler or kids meal delivery, you can also try including your child in the weekly ordering process!
- Let your child choose tableware.
Along with what’s on the table, you can give your child the freedom to choose how the dishes are served, including plates, utensils and other tableware. Picky eater tools such as fun-sized character food picks can make lunch or dinner more interactive and imaginative.
- Let your child serve his or her own dessert.
It’s no secret that kids love a sweet treat. For the occasions on which you’re enjoying dessert together, why not let your little one choose and serve his or her own?
Try out our kid-friendly kitchen organization hacks and give your child dedicated shelving in both the fridge and the pantry. Fill these shelves with naturally sweet desserts that your little one can choose: fresh fruit and Greek yogurt, all-natural apple sauce, fun Fruit Bites or homemade trail mix.
Technique #2: Get Your Child Involved in Meal Prep
Many picky eater tips revolve around what to do after the food is on the table, but this technique starts well before! Instead of limiting choices to what’s being served or which utensils are being used, you can further expand your child’s sense of agency by involving him or her in the meal prep process.
Depending on your little one’s age and interests, here are some fun ideas to stir up engagement and share a little responsibility in the kitchen:
- Washing fruits and veggies
- Tearing fresh herbs
- Fetching ingredients from the fridge/pantry
- Measuring ingredients
- Mixing doughs, tossing salads or stirring pots
- Plating meals
If your children are old enough, you can also have fun during mealtime with DIY, hands-on meal creations:
- Build a grab-and-go taco bar with clean-label corn tortillas, lean ground turkey and all the fixings.
- Host a make-your-own pizza night with whole grain crust, diced veggies and mozzarella cheese.
- Turn your kitchen into an old-school ice cream parlor with homemade parfaits of frozen Greek yogurt, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit.
- Throw together a trail mix of fresh-popped popcorn, raisins and sugar-free coconut shavings.
By inviting your kids to participate in meal prep, you’ll demonstrate that meals aren’t just about eating; they’re about spending time together and choosing healthy ingredients that nourish our bodies!
At Nurture Life, we know that picky eating can feel like an uphill battle, but we hope that you’ll take heart knowing that you are making progress—as well as a long-term difference in your child’s life. Of all the picky eater tips out there, patience and consistency are always key.
If you have more questions about why kids are picky eaters or how to overcome picky eating, please let us know so that we can do our best to help your family. Just contact our child nutrition experts at firstname.lastname@example.org!