5 Tips for Picky Eaters
“Just eat your vegetables!”
“Just sit down!”
“Fine… I will make you something else!”
Yeah, we’ve all been there! I’ve even found myself having some challenging times at the dinner table with my two girls and I am considered an ‘expert in the field’. So, what do you do? Well first of all, you're not alone! In a recent study published in US National Library of Medicine, it was reported that 14-50% of preschoolers were considered a 'picky eater' (Walton, 2017). It is also important to understand that 'picky eating' is on a continuum and can mean different things to many different people.
....This is a topic for another blog post :)!
I am going to take you through my favorite tips for picky eaters. I have also found that when doing these 5 easy steps, it helps to turn these picky eaters into adventurous eaters!
Plus... Picky eaters are just adventurous eaters in training :)!
Establish meal time routine
I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing a mealtime routine! The reason behind this tip; to reduce grazing! Also, if your child is in a mealtime routine, it will help to encourage that hungry feeling during appropriate mealtimes! If your kiddo is hungry come mealtime… This will increase the likelihood of trying new and yummy foods!
Naturally, this also means to reduce snacks throughout the day. If you have a more established mealtime schedule, your kids won’t be as hungry between mealtimes. So, I call this a win-win because you won’t constantly feel like a snack dispenser! #yourewelcome
Involve the kids in the kitchen
When kids are involved in the meal prep, they begin to take ownership in the food! They also will begin to explore more foods! You want them to become interested in a variety of food in whatever capacity that means. I recently found a study that identified when kids become involved in meal prep, it increased vegetable intake (Van Der Horst, 2014).
We recently bought kid safe knives that we LOVE! Sometimes, we will let our kids be in full control of cutting up the fruits and veggies for that meal. They feel so excited about this process and proud that they were a huge part of the meal prep.
I bet you can also guess what they wanted to eat first come dinner… The part they prepared!
Celebrate small successes
It is very important to develop confident eaters at the table! One way to develop confident eaters is to celebrate small successes! It is so important to see any bit of progress at the table and celebrate it. In my world, we call this shaping. One day it may be putting a grape to your mouth and a few days later, your child licked it. Then, in a week, that child could actually eat that grape! Because you celebrated each step of the way and built confidence… You also identified the PROGRESS!
Eat as a family
I cannot stress enough the importance of developing a routine built around eating as a family. I also completely understand the dynamic of a busy schedule and how hard it can be to get everyone around a table at night. However, there is research titled, "The Surprising Benefits of the Family Meal" by Sharon M. Fruh (2011) that suggests significant benefits for family dinners that include:
- Enhanced vocabulary
- Enhanced academic success
- Children are more likely to choose healthy food choices.
- Demonstration of positive values
- Avoidance of high-risk behaviors
So, if you could increase your family dinners by just a few a month, progress is progress and could make a huge difference in all areas of your child's life!
Make Mealtime FUN!
Kids want fun... Why should mealtimes be any different? Whether its asking fun questions during a family dinner or with a fun spinning plate, make mealtimes an engaging experience.
We are so excited to continue to make a difference in children's health! If you have more tips and tricks, please send them our way! We love hearing from you.
Written by Anesa Doyle, M.Ed, BCBA and co-creator of 8 the Plate. Anesa is a mom of two and a professor of Behavioral Psychology.
Fruh, S. M., Fulkerson, J. A., Mulekar, M. S., Kendrick, L. A. J., & Clanton, C. (2011). The surprising benefits of the family meal. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 7(1), 18-22. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.capella.edu/10.1016/j.nurpra.2010.04.017
Van Der Horst, 2014. Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake.
Walton, K., Kuczynski, L., Haycraft, E., Breen, A., & Haines, J. (2017). Time to re-think picky eating?: a relational approach to understanding picky eating. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 14(1), 62. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0520-0