It's not always easy to get children to try new things to eat. Starting to offer a variety of different foods at a young age is ideal but it is still possible to get older children to change. At any age or level of willingness there are a few basic concepts that will help open of the possibility of expanding your child's diet. Your level of control is certainly stronger with a toddler over a teenager so parents of older children may need to be a bit more subtle but the basic ideas are the same.
Get them involved. Have your children get involved in some part of the process around food. Children need to feel a sense of belonging. Today, children are involved in a lot of activities outside the home and may not have responsibilities or chores to contribute to the work routine of the house and family. Give your child a job or ask them to go grocery shopping with you. Help them to be part of the process around food and meal preparation. These are a few things you might try:
- give your toddler unbreakable bowls, dishes, and spoons and sit them next to you so they can copy your motions.
- have you small child stand on a stool while you are working at the counter so they can watch
- ask your child to retrieve something from the pantry
- have your child set the table
- have your child measure the ingredients you need
- ask for input on the menu selctions
No separate meals. Don't be tempted to make your picky eater a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when everyone else is eating lentil soup. What's served for the meal is what is served. This can be tough to stick to but it is best for both you and your child. When a family eats the same food together it creates a sense of unity and creates a strong family bond. This practice will also get your child to eat “adult” food instead of food that is of less nutritional value. It may take a few nights or even weeks to get your child to comply but try to stick with it.
Include one healthy thing in each meal you know your child will eat. Try to include one side dish or item that you know your picky eater will like. If there is one thing they like to eat as an option there is a good chance of getting them to try another part of the meal. If you know he will eat sweet potato mash but the green beans are not his favorite, serve a small portion of the green beans on his plate. Sometimes if everyone else eats it they may eventually try it. I experienced this myself with my daughter and broccoli. Time after time I would serve her broccoli and if I was lucky enough to get it in her mouth she would spit it out. I was almost ready to give up after months and months of her not eating it and one night to my surprise she willingly picked it up and ate it.
Do you have a picky eater? What strategies have worked for you?