Do you have a picky eater at home? If mealtimes are a struggle, try these tips to help your child develop better eating habits. You can use these tips for a child of any age. It’s never too late to start having a healthier and more enjoyable mealtime.
Top 10 tips for picky eaters:
1. Plan family mealtime. Eat meals at the table as a family. Do not offer food while your child is playing, watching television or walking around.
2. Be a role model. Your child will eat better and be more willing to try new foods if she sees others at the table eating the same foods. Family members, including older brothers and sisters, are important role models for healthy eating.
3. Eat at regular times. Offer three meals and up to three snacks at regular times each day. Offer only water between meals and snacks. This will keep your child hydrated and will also make sure that she doesn’t fill up before mealtime. This way she will come to the table hungry.
4. Promote happy mealtimes. Your child will eat better if she is enjoying mealtime. Children are more likely to have a happy mealtime if you don’t pressure them to eat.
5. Avoid distractions. Meals and snacks should be served away from distractions like the television or computer. Mealtime is for eating and interacting with the family. Do not have toys at the table or on your child’s tray. Leave toys, books, television and music for playtime before or after meals.
6. Prepare one meal for the family. Make sure you offer food in the age-appropriate texture and size of pieces for your child. Remember it is the parent or caregiver’s job to offer the food and it is your child’s decision whether they will eat it or not. Your child will be more willing to try new foods if she knows she will not get her favorite foods when she refuses dinner.
7. Listen to your child. Trust that your child knows when she is hungry and full.
8. Don’t pressure, praise, reward, trick or punish. Children who want to be independent will not eat well if they feel pressure. Allow your child to decide if or how much she will eat from the foods offered. Trust that she will eat if she is hungry.
9. Try, try again. Continue offering new foods even if your child has said no to them before. Offer these foods on different days, at different meals and in different recipes. It can take as many as 10 times for a child to try a food and like it. Don’t give up!
10. Limit mealtime. Allow your child a maximum of 30 minutes to eat the meal. After this time put the food away and let your child leave the table. Offer food again at the next scheduled meal or snack time. Extending mealtime too long will not make your child more likely to eat and does not create a healthy and happy eating environment.