While it is common for most children to be somewhat picky about what they eat, the Mayo Clinic has published 10 tips to help make the process of introducing new foods a little easier!
1. Respect your child’s appetite — or lack of one
If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack. Don’t bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate either. This might only reinforce a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration. Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her the opportunity to independently ask for more.
2. Stick to the routine
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Provide juice or milk with the food, and offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice or milk throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.
3. Be patient with new foods
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture , not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods.
4. Make it fun
Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner. Serve a variety of brightly colored foods.
5. Recruit your child’s help
At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don’t buy anything that you don’t want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
6. Set a good example
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
7. Be creative
Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
8. Minimize distractions
Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary foods.
9. Don’t offer dessert as a reward
Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child’s desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
10. Don’t be a short-order cook
Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime, even if he or she doesn’t eat. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.