If you have a picky eater in your family, you’re not alone. A study by Contemporary Pediatrics found that two thirds of parents had trouble introducing their kids to new foods or getting them to eat healthy food. You know your kids need to eat nutritious food, but if you’re tired of the daily battle to get them to eat their greens, then we’ve got a little help coming your way. Just say “No!” to the chicken nugget and fish finger brigade… now you can get even the pickiest of eaters to eat their veggies with these easy tips.
Keith E. Williams, from Penn State Hershey Medical Center, suggests that what we consider a reasonable portion may be far too big. Instead of a helping of peas, give your child just three or four. You can even start with one for really fussy eaters. Getting them to try something the first time is the hardest part for both of you and eating one pea is so much easier than eating a spoonful.
Once they try the new food, follow up with a food they like. In subsequent meals, gradually increase the portion sizes and reduce the size of the follow up food.
Kids can take 6-15 tries before adopting a new food, so don’t give up on the first attempt. Keep offering very small portions with the follow up of a food they like until they feel comfortable. If getting your child to try a new food disrupts meals for the whole family, focus on the staples at dinner and offer new foods at snack time instead.
The Perception of Choice
Giving your child a simple choice at meals will make them less likely to get into a power struggle over food. Ask them which plate they would like, or whether they want broccoli or carrots. These simple choices may be all it takes to neutralize a battle of wills.
You can sneak some healthy items into things your child already loves like blueberries in the pancakes, zucchini muffins, and raisin oat cookies. Smoothies are a wonderful way to cram in fruit and even the odd veggie.
Involve your kids in the buying and preparation of meals. When you are at the store, get them to pick which new vegetable and fruit they would like to try. Then ask them to help you wash and prepare them when you get home. Be sure to mention at dinner that they were helped you with the dish and encourage praise from other family members. Being part of the process may make them more enthusiastic about fruits and veggies.
Be a Good Example
You can’t expect your children to eat well if you aren’t eating well yourself. Don’t cut out unhealthy foods and snacks altogether, but reduce the amount your family consumes and focus on healthy snacks for everyone. Reducing snacks between meals could encourage healthy appetites at mealtimes.