It’s common knowledge that a balanced diet is important for a child’s health and early development. There are several components of a good diet that you should be aware of. Your child should be consuming appropriate amounts of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. If they don’t, they may suffer from frequent illnesses, diminished motor skills, and certain mental delays. If they consume too much of their favorite junk foods they may also struggle with their weight, and be at higher risk for heart disease later in life. However, even kids prone to overeating might have a nutrient deficiency if they’re not eating the right foods.
Parents who can’t get their little ones to expand their diet beyond chicken tenders and mac ‘n’ cheese may spend hours wracking their brains trying to figure out how to get their kids the necessary nutrients. If this is you, keep reading for some tried and true tips to get your picky eater eating!
Don’t Force Them to Eat
It’s important for parents to respect their child’s appetite, or lack thereof. If you try to force them chances are they’ll buckle down and refuse to ever try the food. This is unfortunate because they might’ve liked it under different circumstances. It also teaches them to ignore messages from their body. So in the future, they may struggle with their weight. It’s also good to let them set the pace because placing too much pressure on mealtime could potentially segway into an eating disorder.
However, it’s still important for them to consume enough calories and nutrients daily. To solve this problem you can offer them smaller portions or let them help make the food. When a child is invested in the preparation process, a lot of times they’ll be more eager to sample it. You can let them help by taking them grocery shopping with you, and letting them help plan meals. You could also consider planting a small garden and letting them help you tend it. Then you can incorporate an array of tasty seasonal produce into your meals.
Your child might need to try the same food a few times before they adjust to it. A new flavor or texture can be overwhelming and make your child a bit hesitant. You can try different ways of cooking foods also. They may just not like a certain seasoning or cooking method. For example, just because your kid isn’t a fan of scalloped potatoes doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy some heart-healthy grilled potatoes. You can also talk to your child about the food, shape, smell, taste, and texture of a food. This will give you a better understanding of what they like and dislike about certain foods. In turn, it’ll be easier to put together a menu that works for the whole family.
Fun and Creative Meals
Variety in your diet will help keep your kid interested. More variety will also help you figure out what your child will eat. You can try making colorful and nutritious versions of traditional favorites that will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. You kids might not think they like fruits and veggies. However, if you serve them bell pepper nachos or zucchini grilled cheese they just might like it after all.
It can be helpful to include your child when you go grocery shopping or cooking to ensure they’ll find something they like. However, when you make a meal and they refuse to eat it don’t turn around and cook whatever they want. This is likely to encourage your child’s picky eating habits. They will eat when they get hungry. You don’t need to make separate meals for them and the rest of your family. Even if they choose not to eat you should still keep them at the table until everyone is done eating. This will help them keep a schedule, and kids who just want to escape so they can go play may end up eating after all. You should also turn off the TV and put away electronics during mealtimes so your kid isn’t getting distracted.
Dessert Isn’t a Reward
A lot of parents are so desperate to get their kids to eat that they make the mistake of offering dessert as a reward. This is a bad message to send. First, your child will start to expect dessert at every meal as a reward for eating. Second, it sends the message that dessert is good, and the rest of the food isn’t. It reinforces your child’s perspective that the rest of the meal is unsatisfactory. Continued consumption of sweets is a direct path to sugar addiction. It’s smart to teach your child moderation early, but try not to demonize the occasional sweet treat. Try to limit desserts to a couple of times a week, and offer your kids healthier dessert options like yogurt or a pumpkin oatmeal muffin!
MD 365 Pediatric Care
It can be nerve-racking trying to keep your picky eater healthy. These tips can help you slowly start expanding your child’s diet and get them the nutrients they need to grow. The doctors at MD 365 are also available to provide you with guidance and your child with excellent pediatric care. Our Pediatric doctors can offer annual physicals, growth monitoring, and dietary recommendations to keep your child’s growth on track.