The Do’s and Don’ts of Picky Eating

Photo by Supertrooper courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

Photo by Supertrooper courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

When it comes to eating, a parent’s (or guardian’s) responsibilities are:

  • What foods to present &
  • How those foods will be presented.

A child’s responsibilities are:

  • What they will eat
  • How much they will eat
  • Whether they eat at all.

This is how I first learned about a parent’s and a child’s responsibility when it comes to eating. However, who can be called a picky eater depends on the behavior.  Picky eaters only will eat certain foods and reject others. This will be different for each person. Some will have one food they eat constantly. Others will have a group of five or eight foods they are willing to eat.

If you have encountered this before you know the frustration of trying to get them to try new foods. The good news is that the kid that has been eating PB & J at every meal will grow out of it.  In the mean time here are the Do’s and Don’ts of picky eating to help with presenting new foods:

The Do’s:

1.) Do involve your children, nieces/nephews, and grandchildren in the kitchen! Involving the picky eater in the kitchen is a great way to introduce new foods. Refer to previous blogs for more ways to do this.

2.) Do take them shopping.  The second do is part of the first. Getting them to find fruits and veggies in the store will get them excited about eating it. Make sure you explain the nutritional value behind the produce you pick.

3.) Do rid the room of distractions. Remove electronics completely. Yes, that means the smartphone too. Here is the moment to make use of the tips provided by the Family Dinner Project.

4.) Do present a new food once a week. Keep presenting same food repeatedly so that the child in your life can familiarize themselves with it. Familiar foods are less scary foods! Be aware that this process takes lots of patience. It isn’t uncommon for this step to last more than a couple of weeks.

5.) Do let the child play with the food. Just like the 4th step, playing with the food makes it less scary. A child may be more willing to eat foods that are presented to them in a playful manner. (You don’t have to be Michelangelo to do this. It can be as simple as a well made with potatoes and gravy. This was my favorite as a child.)

The Don’ts:

1.) Do not stay with “safe” food. Although, you may be tempted to keep giving your child the same foods  it does not help in the long run. Your child is missing out on opportunities to expand his/her palette.

2.) Do not make multiple meals. If your child wants you to make a special meal for him or her instead of eating the main meal you should refuse. This habit will wear you out eventually.

3.) Do not force a child to eat foods you do not want to eat. Keep in mind your child will mimic your own eating habits. If you want your child to eat broccoli, you will have to learn to eat broccoli as well.

4.) Do not use food as a reward or punishment. While you want the child in your life to try new foods you do not want to punish them for not eating a certain food or rewarding them with a cookie every time they do. Again negative associations with food.

5.) Do not constantly present foods all day long. Listen to what your child is telling you. They know when they are full or when they are hungry. Don’t try to override this internal control.

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