We all know the struggle—dinner time rolls around, you put some delicious (to you) chicken and seasoned vegetables on your child’s plate, but they refuse to eat it. What’s a parent to do when dealing with a picky eater?
Picky eaters are exactly that—very picky about what they eat for their meals. Maybe they don’t like vegetables, or only want to eat French fries or sandwiches. Whatever the case, picky eaters can be tough to feed, and it can be difficult to encourage them to enjoy a healthy diet or make sure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong, healthy bodies. It might seem like you’re fighting a losing battle, but no fear! We’ve got eight tips that are going to solve your picky eater problems for good!
Before you read these tips, be sure to also check out an exciting and informative webinar with Janet Jacks, founder of Goodness Me!, on August 25th. It’s titled Turning Picky Eaters Around, and it will provide you with Janet’s real life tips and tools for picky eaters. Just in time for the September school sessions! You can sign up here.
You are your child’s role model. This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Your children look up to you, aspire to be you, want to do what you do. So, how can we expect them to eat their Brussel sprouts and salads if mom and dad aren’t doing the same? Make sure you’re exemplifying what a healthy diet looks like for your kids: enjoy your veggies in front of them, share your morning smoothie with them, tell them how excited you are to prepare a delicious healthy dinner. They will catch on, and want to follow in your footsteps.
Get them involved in meal prep. They are more likely to eat something if they have put time and energy into helping prepare it—and it can provide for a fun family experience. Let them shake the homemade salad dressing in a mason jar and pour it over the veggies, or have them mix the ingredients by hand for those almond flour muffins. However you incorporate them, it will show them that hard work goes into preparing meals, and will have them anticipating eating their finished product. Plus, you can teach them about the ingredients as you prepare them, and let them know how those foods will help them grow into strong, healthy people. It’s a win-win!
Let them choose what they would like. By involving them in the decision making, they’ll feel more empowered and better about the choices they make. Let them choose their breakfast: a smoothie, almond flour muffin, protein pancake, or oatmeal? Do the same with lunch, dinner, and snacks. By providing a bunch of different healthy options and letting them decide, you’re putting the power of healthy eating in their hands.
Hide the Healthy. Making small but daily changes in your child’s food choices and meals can make a world of difference in the long run. For example, add some spinach in their smoothie in the morning, or frozen banana and avocado for a “milkshake” texture. You can even make it taste like chocolate with some raw cacao. Try our Mango Tango smoothie or Great Green smoothie—both great recipes for picky eaters. Puree some vegetables to add to pasta sauce, and substitute zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles, or even brown rice pasta, for regular wheat noodles—they won’t know the difference. Make healthy treats like our Crunchy Cereal Bars or Everything Cookies—they’ll think it’s a treat, but will be getting tons of nutrients!
Ask them to try a little bit of everything—before giving them seconds of something they like. Kids often say they don’t like something, even before they try it—especially if it’s a vegetable. At meal times, ask them to at least try a bite of everything on their plate. They might want some more mashed potatoes, but gently remind them that to get a second helping of a food they do like, they need to try a little bit of each of the foods they think they don’t like first. This will get them used to eating different foods, and they’ll probably love them!
Make vegetables appetizing. This is one of the hardest battles parents fight. Kids like sweet and salty, not plain veggies. Prepare your vegetables in a delicious and fun way to get kids to eat them. Green beans can become “green fries” when fried in a pan and served with hummus. Boring celery sticks become exciting when kids can top them with peanut or nut butter and raisins or coconut. And even broccoli or Brussel sprouts become delicious when dressed with lots of butter and salt or Herbamare—kids will love them! Make healthy eating fun and delicious, and your kids will thank you.
Reward them! If your child has been a notoriously picky eater but starts to eat healthier foods or gobbled up the veggies they once despised, treat them to a healthy treat after dinner. Dark chocolate or apple slices with almond butter make great kid-friendly desserts.
Let them go hungry. This might seem a bit harsh, but it is a tried-and-true tip for getting kids to eat something they think they won’t like. If they refuse to eat what you have prepared for dinner, the worst thing you can do is make them something else. Let them know that when they are hungry, that meal will be ready for them to enjoy. It works almost every time—kids will come back to the table and eat the healthy meal you’ve prepared (even if they’re not happy about it).
Try these tips to get your picky eater on the healthy-eating bandwagon. If you are diligent and dedicated, your little ones will start to become easy to feed—and start asking for some of their favourite delicious foods!
Stumped on what to prepare? Here are ten tasty snacks for your child that will have them eating healthy food in delicious ways. Enjoy!
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