Picky eaters – What can parents do?

Parents struggle each day with how to get their children to make healthy food choices. Learn strategies on how to make your child’s food choices balanced and healthy.

As parents, we always want to do the best for our children. Feeding them is no exception – parents want to provide the best possible nutrients to help their child grow and thrive. But as children move into toddlerhood, their major developmental focus is their growing independence. Your child may exert their self-reliance at the dinner table by refusing to eat the food served. Or they may only want one type of food only. This can be very concerning to parents, so what can parents do to make sure their child’s diet is well-balanced?

Start by taking a deep breath. As long as your preschooler is healthy, growing normally and has plenty of energy, he or she is most likely getting needed nutrients. Also, don’t make a big deal about the pickiness, it will usually end within a few years. Recognize that your role as a parent is to provide the healthy food choices and the child’s responsibility is to eat it. Try serving your child one to two foods on their plate that you know they will eat and then provide one new food to try. Encourage them to try it and take a “no thank you bite.” If your child doesn’t want to try it, don’t make a big deal. Children may need to try foods many times before they will eat it.

ChooseMyPlate.gov has a many great ideas for parents to try to get their challenging toddlers to try new foods. Give these ideas a try to increase your child’s willingness to try new foods.

  • Kids like to try foods they prepare. Let them mix, spread and mash. They are likely more willing to eat the food.
  • Make food fun! Rename the foods on their plate, serve broccoli trees or Shrek smoothies.
  • Cut food with cookie cutters into fun shapes. Make shapes out of sandwiches and low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers.
  • Offer choices. Give your toddler a choice between green beans or broccoli. Everyone will be happy, your child can be part of the decision and they will eat a nutritious food.
  • Model for your child by eating healthy and showing a willingness to try new foods. Parents are their child’s greatest teachers so utilize that influence to your advantage.
  • Start small. Offer your child a small amount of a new food. Stick to one tablespoon per year of their age. Introduce one new food at a time.

The different stages of development can be a challenging time for parents. But it can be an opportunity to introduce your child to many different foods. This exposure to a wide variety of healthy foods can lay the foundation for a lifelong of positive food choices.

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