Picky eaters can miss out on a lot of good food! Not only can it be challenging cooking for folks who refuse to eat some foods, but they can also miss out on important nutrients found in foods often on the I-Don’t-Eat list like green vegetables, salads, fruit, skinless poultry and fish, beans, legumes, and nuts, low-fat dairy or whole grains.
The following tips will help nourish your family with healthful foods and help return some harmony to mealtime.
No Short-Order Cooking
Plan meals to include at least one thing that everyone likes (even if it’s the baked beans for the vegetarian or the dessert of fruit and low-fat, no-added-sugar yogurt parfaits!). Then serve one meal for everyone in the family; no exceptions. The alternative habit of preparing different foods for everyone is exhausting and it can take much longer for children to learn to like new foods.
Remember It Takes 11 Tries to Accept Something
It’s a normal for children to be cautious of new things – including food. Research has shown it sometimes takes 11 tries for a child to decide they like a new food. So keep serving broccoli – and even allow a child to touch it or play with it to learn about how it might feel in their mouth. Always ask that they take one bite.
No Clean Plate Club
Help kids focus on eating until they are full rather than finishing every last bite on their plate. Sometimes adults forget that small children have small bellies; a good rule to remember is: 1 tablespoon of food per age of the child for each dish (about 2 or 3 dishes). So a 3-year-old child should receive 3 tablespoons each of peas, noodles and chicken.
Shop & Cook with the Kids
Kids are more likely to taste a dish if they helped plan or prepare it. Letting kids choose veggies in the supermarket produce section or even in the frozen food aisle will empower them. Involve them with age-appropriate tasks such as in stirring, chopping or measuring ingredients; this will allow them to contribute to a project in which they are proud to share and eat! This technique works with picky adults/teens too: Asking them to help with the shopping and cooking gives them investment in the final product and greater curiosity to try it.
Serve Smart Snacks
One of the very best ways to get kids (and adults) accustomed to eating fruits and veggies is to serve them when they are really hungry at snack time. Veggies and hummus are a simple way to nourish children for play or homework – but not overfill their bellies so they aren’t hungry for a wholesome dinner. Serving salty chips, cookies or even sugary granola bars and artificially-flavored gummy ‘fruit’ snacks can be a quick option, but not the healthiest solution. Also serve snacks when kids are hungry, but not too close to meal time.