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5 Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters

Fitday Editor

After a long day, the last thing you want to do is wage war over vegetables at the dinner table. The good news is that getting a picky eater to eat nutritiously doesn’t have to be a battle. By simply making a few changes to your food routines, you can provide an encouraging environment that promotes the fun and excitement of trying new things.

1. Don’t force it.

You can’t force your picky eater to eat, so end the push-pull cycle and stop trying. Especially with children, food is an easy way for them to gain control over their worlds. Demanding to eat certain foods often attaches negative connotations to it, gradually making the struggle worse. Simply offer up nutritious, varied foods and be a good model and eat them yourself. They can have theirs or not, but don’t stress if it stays on the plate.

2. Practice patience.

Picky eaters, especially younger children, often need repeated exposure to a new food before they will take the first bite. Encourage them by focusing on a food’s color, shape, texture or aroma, rather than its taste. Get creative and pair new foods along with foods that they already like. Offer blueberry pancakes, top cereal with fruit slices or sneak in some grated vegetables into soups and casseroles.

3. Recruit their help.

One easy way to help your picky eater buy into meals is to get them involved in the shopping and preparation. At the grocery store, have them help select healthy foods like different fruits or vegetables. At home, encourage them to help out in the kitchen. Having a hand in the final product makes many wary eaters more likely to try the finished product.

4. Stay away from the unhealthy alternatives.

It’s simple: out of sight, out of mind. If the chips and cookies aren’t stocked, your picky eater can’t turn to them. Keep healthy, convenient foods on hand for easy access. That way, when they start getting hungry, they can learn to like and choose them.

5. Don’t be a short-order cook.

Altering meals or preparing separate meals for your picky eater after they reject the original will only serve to promote their eating habits. Do make sure that at each meal there is something that they know and like on the plate. Continue serving healthy choices until they become more familiar and eventually preferred.

The best way to influence kids, or other picky eaters, is by example. Remain encouraging and try new foods along with them. Remember that no one can overhaul their eating habits overnight. However, taking some small steps each day can help to promote a lifetime of healthy eating.

Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.

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