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Tricks and tips for persuading a picky eater

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Figuring out what to eat for dinner can be challenging enough without a picky toddler to feed. Serving healthy food that your child will eat can be frustrating, if not mindboggling, but experts have some tips that may help convince your picky eater.

Be patient

Though it’s tough to avoid, experts with the Mayo Clinic advise against forcing or bribing children to eat. Creating pressure around food may lead your child to associate meal time with anxiety and frustration or it could prevent your child from recognizing his or her own hunger cues. Instead, experts suggest serving children smaller portions that are less overwhelming. That way your child can learn to ask for more if desired.

Be consistent

Serving meals at the same time every day helps children understand routine. If your child gets hungry in between meals, offer a healthy snack such as juice, milk, fruit or whole grain crackers. This will tide your child over until it’s time to eat.

Be encouraging

Children are learning the world around them day by day and certain textures, flavors and smells are strange at first. When it comes to trying new food, they may not enjoy it at first but encourage them to try it again at a later time. With repetition, your child will become more familiar with healthy foods like eggs, broccoli and peaches and be more willing to eat them.

Be inclusive

When serving dinner, don’t make something special for your child to eat that’s different from the rest of the family. Being a short-order cook is not only time consuming but teaches children to expect it and promotes pickiness. Make a meal the whole family can enjoy and teach your child about the new ingredients.

Be fun

Cutting foods into cool shapes or making dips to go with veggies is a great way to interest children in food. If you’re serving pancakes, try a heart shape. Want your kid to eat carrots? Add a drop of food coloring to some ranch for a blue dip. Serving breakfast for dinner seems like breaking the rules so many kids enjoy that experience. You can also ask your child to help you cook by mixing the salad or measuring certain ingredients. Kids are naturally curious and this is a good teaching exercise.

Be a role model

If you won’t eat it, chances are that your child won’t either. Many children look to their parents and adult caregivers as an example of how to eat and what to eat. If you push the salad to the side or only eat pizza for dinner, you won’t convince your child to eat his or her veggies. Lead by example.

Be distraction-free

Sometimes kids aren’t so much picky as they are distracted by other things going on – the TV, computer and other activities happening at meal time. To keep them focused on their plate, turn off the electronics and bring the family together around the table so kids aren’t attracted to other stimuli.

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