While it is true that some children will be picky about food no matter how hard you try to feed them balanced foods, most picky eaters are created by parents who fall into food traps. Here are eight tips for helping make sure your child doesn’t become a picky eater.
1. Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Did you know that the foods you eat while you’re pregnant flavor the amniotic fluid and give your baby a taste of what foods taste like? Studies have shown that mothers who eat a variety of flavors and foods during pregnancy have babies who are more likely to eat those same foods when they start solids. Another way to give babies a taste of pre-eating flavor is by eating healthy foods while breastfeeding. This also flavors your milk and gives babies a head start on what food tastes like.
2. Baby led weaning or make your own purees. Have you ever tasted store bought baby food? It tastes nothing like real food. I can’t blame babies for not wanting to eat it. By making your own purees, it lets your baby get fresh food that actually tastes like food. Baby led weaning is also an easy way to skip purees and to start your child out on the same foods that your family is eating.
3 Real food with real flavor. Instead of making food bland for young eaters give them full flavored foods like curry, salsa, and strong flavors like sauerkraut or mustard from the beginning to help their taste buds mature and palate expand.
4. Let them help. Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to eat the food that they had a hand in preparing. Even very young kids can add spices or put vegetable pieces into a pot.
5. Let them explore. Take your kids with you to go shopping. Let them look at the produce, touch the pineapples, help pick out vegetables they want to eat. Explaining how things grow and what we can cook with them helps kids understand and make good choices.
6. Don’t rush them and serve little amounts. A lot of food on a plate can be overwhelming. By putting a small amount (think two pieces of broccoli instead of five), it is less intimidating. Don’t rush or pressure kids to eat quickly or finish their food. This lets them process the food and doesn’t create stress around meal times.
7. Don’t start bad habits. Parents often say, “my child will only eat plain noodles with butter or plain white rice with parmesan cheese”. The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen, is to refrain from serving bland food. Always serve things in the form you want them to eat it. Mix the cooked noodles with the sauce in the kitchen before it is served. If a child always gets macaroni and cheese that has squash mixed in the cheese sauce and broccoli mixed in with the noodles, they won’t know that it comes any other way.
8. Serve it even if you don’t like it. Being a parent can mean eating fruits and vegetables you don’t like. I’m not a fan of peas but I serve them anyway because I don’t want to pass my dislike of peas on to my child. It is important to serve a variety of foods regardless of personal feelings about them, and you never know, they may just grow on you!
It can take 30 times trying a new food for a child to truly decide whether they like it. It is important to remember this when beginning to offer foods. Continue to offer them even if it is rejected initially. Modeling good eating habits, and introducing foods in an exciting way can go a long way in ensuring that your child is a good eater.