Why are my kids only happy with chicken nuggets & mac n’ cheese, while my neighbors children eat sushi & kale chips?!
“Many parents with picky eaters at home eventually give up on stocking the fridge with fresh fruits and veggies because their kids just won’t eat them,” explains Gigi Schweikert, author of I’m a Good Mother. “In no time, the pantry becomes a goldfish wasteland and the fridge turns into a picky eater’s paradise filled with jello, juice, and junk. While it’s easier to give in than fight over food, picky eating only gets worse as healthy choices dwindle,” adds Gigi.
Luckily, these tricks will help take your kitchen back from the babes!
Strategies for Dealing with Picky Eaters
- Arms Reach & Eye Level. Instead of keeping the junkier food on their eye level, stock the lower shelves of the pantry and the fridge with healthier options – This trick works well for kids, ages 3 to 10. Allow them to make their own snack choice from anything “within their reach.”
- A Relabeling Renaissance. It’s no accident that junk food labeling is colorful, playful, and eye catching. Take yogurt for example. The sugary choices have vibrant labels while the healthier versions are majorly dull. Instead of sticking with a boring label, cover it up with comics, stickers, printouts of their favorite TV character, drawings, etc. With a more exciting label, kids will be more attached to the food.
- Freeze Frame. It can take up to 15 tries for a child to acquire a taste for a new food. Sounds like a lot of wasted broccoli, right? But don’t give up on expensive veggies altogether– just freeze them! Take out portions as needed, broil in the oven for 10-15 minutes with olive oil/salt. You’ll never be able to tell it was ever frozen and your kids can taste it then spit it for the first 14 times without costing you a fortune.
- Cut It Up. You can’t deny the convenience of snacking on chips and chewy bars. Having to go through the extra step of cutting up cucumbers makes us less likely to opt for them. Instead of on demand, try cutting up fruit and veggies in the morning for easy snacking when the kids come home from school.
- Counter Culture. If it’s out, it’s getting eaten. Replace junk food on the counter with fruits and veggies. Bananas are a great choice here. Nuts and seeds too. Mix then with raisins or sweetened cranberries.
Tricks For Getting Kids to Try New Foods
- Back Off. Don’t get mad when your picky eater doesn’t eat their dinner. Once they realize they won’t get a rise out of you, they’ll stop using food as a point of contention.
- Don’t Hover. At breakfast or lunch, don’t stand there and watch over their shoulder while your child takes a bite of a healthy food. Give them some space. If they think no one is watching, the pressure is off.
- Let There Be Cooks. Enlist your toddler’s help in choosing healthy toppings for a pizza. Believe it or not, they will be more willing to try new tastes when they are excited about what they made themselves.
- Rewind Rewards. Don’t use candy/dessert as a reward. This goes against the concept of establishing a healthy relationship to food. When you reward your child with treats, it carries over as into adulthood.
- Table The TV. Do your best to eat together as a family — at the table, not in front of the television. Foster an environment where food is the center, and not just a distraction from their favorite show.
By Gigi Schweikert, former Director of the United Nations Child Care Center in New York City and author of several books on parenting and childcare including, “There’s a Perfect Angel in Every Child: Positive Discipline that Works”, and “I’m a Good Mother,” as well as several bestselling professional titles used as guides by teachers around the country.