Dealing with a picky eater

Do you dread mealtime because of your picky child?

If so, we are here to help.

A balanced diet promotes our physical and mental health. Here are some strategies to overcome picky eating and instill healthy eating behaviors in your children:

Tip # 1: Treat food like sustenance, rather than a reward

Establish a healthy relationship with food by treating it like fuel rather than making it into a reward. 

Tip # 2: Set realistic expectations

Some meals will be smoother than others - and you won't always be able to predict which one will go well and which one will go poorly. Reminding yourself of this before each meal will allow you to respond rather than react to any fussy eating that your child displays.

Tip # 3: Stock your home with healthy foods

Your children (and you) are more likely to eat healthy food when it's readily available. Consider keeping unhealthy foods out of the house (or at least, out of your children's sight and reach).

Tip # 4: Involve your child in grocery shopping and meal preparation

Children are more likely to be interested in a meal when they played a role in preparing it. Taking them to the store, having them weigh the produce, and getting them to stir and plate their meal will pique their interest.

Tip # 5: Make food fun by plating it in a creative and colourful way

Adding a bit of colour (like a blueberry and banana smiley face on their oatmeal or beetroot to their pancake batter) is a great way to make food look more attractive while also adding important nutrients.

Tip # 6: Establish a mealtime routine

Try to eat together as often as you can. Children learn more from what they see than what they hear, so watching you and other family members eat a variety of food could help reduce their pickiness.

Tip # 7: Offer your child some choice

Children like to assert their autonomy and independence. You can capitalize on this by offering them some choice with their food. Make sure that the choices are limited, as too many options can be overwhelming. Only offer them food that you are willing to give them.

Tip # 8: Enforce a 'one bite rule'

Focus on getting your children to try things rather than finish them. The palate changes rapidly over the course of childhood, and it takes up to 30 exposures to a new food before we decide if we like it or dislike it. Encouraging your child to have one bite and then respecting their disdain (if they report it), is a good way to expose them to different tastes while allowing them to feel in control and respected. Be sure to praise them when they try something - whether they like it or not. The key is to encourage the attempt rather than the result.

Tip # 9: Set a time limit for meals if they have a tendency to drag

No one likes to spend two hours at the lunch table negotiating, threatening, or bribing their child to eat. Put an end to that by setting a reasonable time limit of, say, 30 minutes. After the time is up, clear the plates. Try to remain cool and collected while you do so.

If you need further support, please get in touch for a parenting consultation, and keep your eye out for our picky eating workshops.

*This blog does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child's physical growth.