November 06, 2019
There’s no way around it—kids can be picky, and meal-time is no different. Picky eating isn’t uncommon for children, but that doesn’t make it any easier on parents trying to ensure kids get a healthy balance of nutrients. Though giving in to an unhealthy meal is definitely tempting after a long day, there are a few ways to sneak in fruits and veggies without risking a tantrum or sacrificing your child’s good mood. Here are some tips for parents with little ones who struggle to enjoy meal time.
Most kids are extraordinarily responsive to visual cues, making certain textures and colors more off-putting than others. While many children will turn their noses up to things like celery and leafy greens, they might change their minds with a little creativity on your end. Greens can be thrown into a sweet, colorful smoothie , and celery can be a lot more fun with peanut butter and raisins to mimic ants on a log.
Kids pick up habits and actions from watching their parents, so being a positive role model is essential to encouraging healthy habits. If you consistently say no to fruits and veggies, chances are your kids will too. In fact, a survey of 550 families showed parents’ fruit and vegetable consumption was the strongest predictor of a child’s fruit and vegetable intake. When you are eating nutritious foods , try to be enthusiastic—kids will be more likely to try a food if they see you enjoying it first.
Though it can be tempting to encourage your child to finish their plate and avoid wasting food, large portions of a new food can be overwhelming and discouraging for a child. While a bite or two of green beans seems tolerable to a child who knows their favorite meal is on the way, a plateful could turn them off completely—making it much harder to talk them into veggies next time. If the smaller portion goes well, slowly increase the portion size in the future until the recommended portion size has been reached.
Imagine being handed a plate of unfamiliar food, and being expected to eat it without understanding what it is or where it came from. This is often what kids experience at meal time, which can be a major source of anxiety for children with snack-stress. Instead of presenting the finished product and hoping for the best, try to get your kids involved in the entire meal process, from the grocery store to the dinner table. Let your kids participate in safe meal-prep, like washing vegetables. Studies show that children who are involved in meal prep are significantly more likely to eat vegetables than those who aren’t.
The process of adding various nutritious food to your child’s diet can be challenging. Remember to be calm and patient, understanding that new things take time, and that losing your patience will only backfire. With care, commitment, and persistence, new foods can become a fuss-free part of your routine.