Even the most patient and understanding parent is liable to become frustrated by an unflinchingly finicky child. In addition to being picky about what they eat, many children are very selective about when they eat. Needless to say, if you want to ensure that your child always gets enough to eat and enjoys what they’re eating, pickiness stands to make your job considerably more difficult. While dealing with a finicky eater is far from fun, there are a number of easy and effective ways for parents to keep choosy children happy and well-nourished. So, if you’re tired of battling it out with your child every time you sit down to a meal, put the following tips to good use.
Let Them Know What Their Options Are
If a child absolutely doesn’t want to eat a meal you’ve prepared, you can ensure that they don’t go hungry by presenting them with a small variety of health-conscious alternatives. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should go to the trouble of preparing multiple meals. After all, the last thing an exhausted parent wants to do at the end of a long day is plan and prepare multiple dinners. Instead, let your finicky eater know that they’re free to have some Cheerios (or any other healthy cereal), sliced fruit, veggie sticks or plain yogurt if they’re not interested in eating what you’ve made. While they’re bound to occasionally take you up on this offer, they’re likely to grow bored eating the same things every day and gradually become more amenable to the idea of sampling new foods.
Introduce Them to Unique Snacks
Most finicky children have a very small list of foods they enjoy, and attempting to expand their palettes can be a source of great frustration for many parents. In some instances, kids limit their palettes due to a lack of exposure to new and different foods. Since these children are rarely introduced to new foods, they’re less apt to try them on the rare occasion that they are. Parents looking to nip this issue in the bud should seek to introduce their children to unique – and health-conscious – snacks. Fortunately, finding high-protein snacks and other healthy alternatives to traditional junk food has never been easier.
Include Them in Meal Preparation
Although many children are endlessly curious, this sense of adventure generally doesn’t carry over to the dinner table. If a child is unfamiliar with a certain type of food, they’re liable to immediately conclude that they don’t like it and write it off entirely. Virtually every parent has had a dinner table disagreement with a child that’s ended with an exclamation of “You can’t know if you don’t like it if you won’t try it!” Additionally, if an entrée or side-dish looks unappetizing to a child, they’re likely to steer clear of it – even if it contains ingredients they generally like.
If the conflicts discussed above remind you of food-based arguments you’ve had with your little ones, consider including them in the meal prep process. Since many children regard cooking as a grownup activity, they’re liable to jump at the chance to play an active role. In addition to making your kids feel included, allowing them to participate in this process will take some of the mystery out of what they’re being served. As an added bonus, kids are unlikely to readily dismiss a meal they helped put together, as doing so would entail a tacit repudiation of their own hard work.
Don’t Force Food on Them
Sometimes, exhausted parents feel like their only option is to make children eat foods they don’t like. Not allowing them to leave the table until they’ve eaten something they purport to hate may seem like a good idea in the moment, but it ultimately stands to make their pickiness even worse. Being forced to eat unfamiliar foods may cause finicky children to associate those foods with punishment, making them less likely to develop a genuine taste for them.
As any parent can tell you, dealing with a picky eater is never easy. Many children – and many adults, quite frankly – choose to limit themselves to very specific foods and food groups. While this may prevent them from potential exposure to things they don’t like, it can also lead to them missing out on things they actually would want to eat. There’s no denying that getting a finicky eater to expand their palette can be a time-consuming and arduous undertaking. However, by exercising a steady amount of patience and dedication, you may be able to get your choosy child to rethink his or her eating habits.