Simple Ways to Help Broaden Their
Do you have a picky eater on your hands?
Maybe you are worried your little one isn’t eating enough or has too limited a diet (Can Goldfish be its own food group?). Having a finicky eater at the family dinner table can be worrisome and frustrating. Here are a few tips to help those fussy eaters expand their food horizons and learn to like a wider variety of foods.
Set a good example for your child.
If you are going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. Kids learn healthy food habits from observing those around them, and if their parents aren’t eating healthy foods, chances are they won’t either. According to a study published in the journal Appetite, kids who saw their parents eating vegetables as snacks and green salads
with dinner were significantly more likely to eat the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables than the kids who never or rarely saw their parents eating the vegetables or green salads.1,2
Don’t fight, bribe, or force the issue.
Forcing a child to eat something they don’t want
to eat or to “clean their plate” when they aren’t hungry
can not only cause them to associate mealtimes with negative emotions, it might also condition them to miss or ignore the body’s signs of hunger or of being full. Bribing children to eat something is just as bad, especially the younger ones, because it teaches them to expect a reward every time they eat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “It’s a parent’s responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.”3,4
Just keep trying…just keep trying.
You’ve probably heard the rumor that a child will start eating a food after being exposed to it several times. Well, guess what? It’s true. Research has shown that toddlers can be made to like a food by introducing it to them 5 to 10 times over the course
of several weeks; 3- and 4-year olds might need 15 times before liking it. So don’t give up after only a few tries. Just keep introducing the food every week or so; eventually, your child will get used to seeing it (and to seeing you eat it) and will learn to like it.
Serve a new food with an old favorite.
Try topping veggies (whether served raw or cooked) with grated cheese. Sprinkle a little sugar on a grapefruit. Add a little chocolate syrup to milk. Serve a side of ranch dressing with radishes. As your child grows accustomed to the taste of a new food, he or she will eventually learn to like the food by itself. Parenting Science suggests that when introducing a new food that is sour or bitter, pair it with something sweet or salty (two flavors toddlers naturally like).
Let your child help with grocery shopping and meal preparation.
Bring your child with you on food shopping trips and let him or her pick out
a new fruit, vegetable, or other healthy whole food. Help him or her select and prepare a recipe using the new food (older kids can do it themselves). Getting kids involved in the food selection and meal preparation for the family teaches them independence, can give them a sense of control over their own eating, and provides them with opportunities to learn about proper nutrition and portion sizes.3 (It’s also a great opportunity to learn about money management.)
Dust off that fedora and go on a food adventure with your kids. Explore Mother Earth’s incredible and varied bounty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and lean meats and try as many of them as you can with your children. Be persistent when introducing something new, but remember to be patient—a child’s young taste buds might need a little time
NHR Staff’s Mother-approved Tips for
We surveyed the staff of NHR for their tried and true tips (or tricks) for getting little ones to eat healthy foods.
“All three of my kids loved to eat frozen green peas by the handful, so I began experimenting with other fruits and veggies. I would freeze handfuls of sliced bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries, green beans, even broccoli, in snack-sized ziploc bags or small plastic containers for my kids to grab as snacks any time of the day. They thought it was fun!”
“We have struggled with getting our 18-month-old to eat anything! But he loves to watch himself eat in the mirror. He recently ate his entire dinner while FaceTiming with his grandma while she was eating ice cream.”
“When my son was a toddler, he would literally eat ketchup by the spoonful, so I started serving it with nearly every meal. There was no vegetable he wouldn’t eat as long as it was dipped in ketchup.”
“For my little sister, it was maple syrup. She would dip anything into that. But my mom’s big trick was to add pureed fruits and vegetables to pancake mix to make sure we got our daily servings. We finally caught on to the pancake trick when my mom got too brave with the veggies. ‘Moooommm, why does this pancake taste like broccoli and carrots?!'”
“When making a strawberry-banana-blueberry smoothie, I like to throw in a handful of spinach leaves. The strong,