- Picky eating is normal! Most children go through a stage where they refuse to eat certain foods.
- Food preferences have a lot to do with genes (though not entirely).
- Children’s taste buds are much more sensitive than adults—their food dislikes may seem strange to us but may be very strong for them.
- If your child is growing normally and is not lacking in energy, he or she is most likely getting the nutrients he or she needs for healthy development, even if he or she is picky. You can always check with your pediatrician if you have concerns.
- Too much stress at meal time doesn’t help anyone out, least of all you!
…but still encourage them
- You can still have an impact on how your children think about food.
- It’s important to help them form good habits and learn to make good choices, even if it doesn’t always result in them eating what you want right now.
- Children can learn that it is expected of them to behave a certain way at the table and that they are expected to eat certain foods, even if it’s a future goal.
- One day your child is likely to grow out of it, and you want him or her to have the opportunity to make a good choice, rather than thinking of himself or herself as a picky eater forever.
Picky Eating: Strategies
Involve your children in preparing meals. Even a simple step like helping to wash produce or set the table can help.
Try setting a rule that they have to have a little bit of vegetable (or whichever food is a problem) on their plate at each meal. Tell them that they don’t necessarily have to try it, but it has to go on the plate.
If your child says she’s hungry, but then only wants dessert or other treats, have a conversation with her about whether they’re reallyhungry or not.
Be a good role model! They will be more likely to try something if they see you eating it and enjoying it.
Try using fun names for food, or having your children make edible fruit and vegetable art.
Try serving vegetables or problem foods first, before other foods appear on the table. If it’s not competing with a more familiar food, a child will be more likely to try it.
Reprinted with the permission of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University
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