10 Ways To Make Sure Your Picky Eater Gets Important Nutrients
It’s hard to find food for picky eaters, and getting them to eat can be extremely frustrating. However, it’s common for kids to be picky eaters, according to 2017 research, “Children are predisposed to prefer high-energy, -sugar, and -salt foods, and in preschool age to reject new foods (food neophobia).”
If you have a picky eater at home, the goal is to ensure they get the right foods, especially if you can’t get them to eat very much. Food selection is important because your child may be missing out on important nutrients, suggest experts at Parents.com. They explain:
“Most picky kids appear to be healthy, but children who reject entire food groups aren't doing their body any favors. Ditching dairy could mean not getting enough bone-building calcium. Skipping vitamin- and fiber-rich fruits and veggies might lead to deficiencies or constipation. And a poor diet over the long term is known to boost the risk of everything from heart disease to cancer.”
Don’t let your picky eater suffer from a lack of important nutrients. Here are ten ways to find food for your picky eater along with tips to get your child eating more.
#1: Offer a Variety of Foods
Your picky eater may not try a new food the first time around. They may put it in their mouth and take it right out, but keep offering them a variety of food. Be sure to include a variety of colors, sizes, textures and flavors, suggests the research from, Learning to Eat Vegetables Early in Life. To get your child to enjoy foods they don’t like, expose them to:
- A variety of food types
- A variety of food textures
- The food's appearance
#2: Go Slow
Don’t bombard your child with new food options. Instead, keep it simple and go slow, suggests Denise Dunlap, MD, pediatrician. To do so, offer healthier options at the start of the meal, when your picky eater is hungry. You can also add foods to a plate with some items you know they like. This will allow them to make their own choices and try new foods in a way that may feel more comfortable.
For example, give your child a Healthy Height shake with fruit for breakfast. Not only does Healthy Height round out the meal, thanks to the added vitamins and nutrients, but your child may be more likely to try it alongside their favorite fruit. Check out all of our healthy recipe ideas to find more meals that are as good for your child as they are tasty.
Ultimately, the more exposure your picky eater gets to the new items, the more familiar those foods become, and the more likely he or she is to give them a try. Remember, it takes 10 to 15 tries before a picky eater may start to like a food.
#3: Get Your Child Involved
Whether you’re at the grocery store or in the kitchen, ask your child to help, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only will your child be more likely to try something he or she chose without your direction, but cooking alongside you drives more interest in the food itself.
The Eat Right Foundation suggests keeping a stool or chair nearby so your little one can wash veggies, stir foods or arrange foods on a plate. Make it easy for your child to get involved, and they may start being more interested in the new foods you cook together.
#4: Offer Two Healthy Options
Instead of asking, “Do you want broccoli tonight?” give your picky eater an option, suggests AAP. For example, you might ask instead: “Do you want broccoli or carrots tonight?” Experts at AAP suggest your child may may be more likely to try something new when he or she chooses it, not you.
#5: Have a Little Fun
Instead of trying to get your child to eat “carrots,” ask if they want, “x-ray vision coins,” suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). They explain, “In the same way that descriptions on restaurant menus can influence what you order, creative names in the kitchen or cafeteria can pique a child's interest.” Have fun with this, focusing on foods that sound especially foreign, like cauliflower or kale.
#6: Turn Trying New Foods Into Story Time
If your child loves storytime, this is a great way to get them interested in trying new foods, according to AND. Check out some fun ideas for making the experience of trying new foods more interesting and exciting:
- Teach your child about foods and recipes from around the world, including what children in different cultures eat.
- Read stories revolving around food-based professions such as bakers, farmers and chefs
- Watch cooking shows and videos with your kids, like watching the Chopped Junior on the Food Network or a fun children’s movie like Ratatouille.
#7: Less Pressure, More Structure
Nicole Freedman, MSN, RN, CPNP, suggests that parents should avoid pressuring their child to eat more or clean their plate. Rather the focus on meal-time structure. She explains:
“Offer three regular meals and two healthy snacks throughout the course of the day. A parents’ job is to provide healthy meals, but it should be up to the child to decide how much and when he or she wants to eat. Children will eat if they are hungry.”
#8: Limit Sugary Juices Between Meals
While juice may be your child’s favorite beverage, try to limit them to water between meals, says Dunlap. She explains that these drinks fill your child up with empty calories, which means his or she is less likely to eat at meal time. Not to mention, these sugary drinks can also “make them crave sweeter food that might not be the healthiest.”
Check out our blog post, The Best Healthy Drinks to Help Kids Grow, to find alternatives.
#9: Reduce Meal-Time Distractions
Your child is more likely to focus on eating and eat more with fewer distractions, like iPads or the T.V., suggests Freedman. Toys and entertainment may seem like alternatives to eating, so its best to keep their focus on the dinner table. Make it part of your routine to turn off the T.V. and focus on food when it’s time to eat.
#10: Lead by Example
The National Institute of Health suggests that you are your child’s most important role model, making it important that you lead by example. Focus on eating healthy as often as possible and try new foods to show your picky eater that it’s okay to be adventurous.