Expanding Picky Eaters’ Palates
While it’s normal for children to go through “food phases,” it can sometimes make mealtimes a challenge. Actually, when occasional food aversions or preferences get to be the norm, it can escalate to something that can be very frustrating for moms, dads and other caregivers.
To help cope with the many challenges of having a picky eater at your table, we spoke with Dr. Maya Vadiveloo, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. Here are a few of her tips to help you introduce new foods in healthy, happier ways (check out the full blog for much more about parenting picky eaters).
Tip #1: Be a Role Model
Showing works better than telling. By being a role model for healthy eating behavior and frequently trying new foods yourself, your child will more likely be curious and willing to follow your example. “Kids are not going to do things that you’re not doing yourself,” says Dr. Vadiveloo (pictured). If you expect children to eat veggies with enthusiasm, they’ll have to see you do it first!
Tip #2: Trust Your Child’s Appetite
Take the lead on planning what healthy foods you serve to your family (and when and where your family will eat them). But trust your child can take it from there. “Let your kid decide how much they want to eat,” Dr. Vadiveloo advises. Children tend to stop eating when they’re no longer hungry. Letting them make that decision can help make the mealtime experience more pleasant.
Tip #3: Start with a Winner
Avoid the temptation to prepare separate meals for your child. Instead, with each meal be sure to serve at least one food that you know your picky eater will enjoy (like adding a little new zucchini next to their favorite pasta with marinara!). You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will be to get a thumbs up on the entire meal.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.