Picture this: You just saw a Bats game with the hubby and your little one. After all the cheering, you’re ravenous and driving through Louisville, looking for a nice restaurant everyone can agree on. Here’s the catch: your kid wants nothing except the frozen dino nuggets at home. Now what? Here’s how to outsmart picky eaters –
When you have a picky eater, navigating mealtimes can be challenging. It becomes a concern once your kid starts eating only a few types of food, making it difficult to fulfill their nutritional needs. With a few clever hacks, you can encourage your child to widen their palate and eat more types of food. Here are 9 mealtime hacks to outsmart your picky eater:
1) Start Small
When it comes to introducing new foods, don’t jump into things straight away. Start with introducing just a small amount of new food items. For instance, if you want your kid to try broccoli, you should start with just one piece rather than filling half their plate. Slowly build their curiosity and familiarity with the food instead of overwhelming them.
2) Set an Example
Did you know that research shows that children respond better to food when they see their parents eat it?
Picky eating habits can start at a young age. Children can become fussy with food when parents bribe, reward or encourage their behavior. Don’t encourage picky eating behavior. Instead, you can set gentle but firm rules about food.
Eat meals together as a family. If you want your kid to try something, eat it in front of them before offering it. Your child will be likelier to try a new food if they see you enjoying it.
3) Don’t Push it
As a parent, don’t push your kids too hard to eat new foods. Moderately encourage them and set fair rules when it comes to meals.
Additionally, avoid introducing unfamiliar foods daily. Space out new introductions throughout the week. Otherwise, your child might associate mealtimes with negative feelings.
4) Let Your Kids Choose
One technique to convince your child to eat new foods is to let them choose between options. Try a different strategy instead of serving a new veggie and asking them to have a bite. You can say, “Your meals should have a veggie side. Would you like carrots or spinach?” Letting your child choose can make them feel involved in the decision and thus more likely to try new things.
5) Hide the Veggies
Sometimes, even with positive encouragement, you still can’t get the right amount of veggies into your kid’s diet. You can always give them the proper nutrition by hiding vegetables in their favorite foods.
Blending vegetables into sauces and soups is a great way to help your child get the nutrients they need without the mealtime struggle.
To make hidden veggie pasta sauce, sautee vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, squash and bell peppers in oil. After sauteing, add the vegetables to your red sauce and blend with an immersion blender.
This sauce isn’t exclusive to pasta. You can save this tomato-based veggie sauce to make mini pizzas, tomato noodle soups and more.
6) Let the Kids Help Out
A laboratory study showed that children ate more of the food they prepared themselves than nearly identical food prepared by someone else. If your child helps prepare a new food, there’s a bigger chance they will eat it.
Kids aged three to five can do simpler tasks like adding ingredients to a bowl. Around age six, kids can do finer tasks like cracking eggs open or scooping out a cut avocado. As kids get older, they can do increasingly complex tasks in the kitchen so they can get involved in what they eat.
7) Get Creative
Make mealtimes more fun by getting creative. You can arrange food to make a smiling face or cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
If your kid is interested in something, try integrating it into their food. For example, if they like penguins lately, you can search for a penguin-shaped cookie cutter to use on different ingredients.
8) Give Veggies a New Name
Another way to engage your child during mealtimes is to use funny names for new and unfamiliar foods. Kids might not be excited about veggies, but they might warm up to “rocket carrots” or “laser beans.” Try to incorporate fun stories or situations related to the food. You can play pretend about getting superpowers when they eat “cauli-power” or becoming a rockstar when they eat “broc-n-roll.”
9) Find Out What They Like
Whenever you introduce new foods to your child, take note of the things they like. Keep a list of everything your child is receptive to. Then, you can work on expanding the list.
What new items can you pair with their safe foods? If your kid likes mac and cheese, think of what protein or vegetables you can serve along with it. Just ensure you’re serving the right portion size for your child’s age.
You can also introduce items similar to their safe foods. If your kid likes blueberries, try giving them other berries and explaining their similarities.
Clever Hacks for Fuss-free Mealtimes
Dealing with a picky eater can be challenging, but you can try different solutions to help them get the nutrition they need. By setting moderate rules and making meals fun, you can introduce your little one to a whole new world of food and outsmart picky eaters!