Dos and Don’ts for Parents of Picky Eaters
Virtually every parent has been there at one time or another. It’s dinner time again, but a child has issues with what’s on the menu. What’s the parent of a picky eater to do? Many parents choose the easy route, giving in to demands for fries, nuggets, noodles—or whatever. Again. Others fight the good fight, demanding that their fussy child at least try a new food occasionally.
As parents, we all want what’s best for our kids, of course. But goodness knows, it’s not always easy to achieve, and sometimes it’s hard to even know what’s important, and what’s not. When it comes to building a good nutritional foundation that will enable your child to grow and thrive, it’s important to develop healthful eating habits. Giving in and allowing your child to eat three or four foods—and nothing else—is not doing him or her a favor. Good nutrition knowledge, practices and habits are learned, not intuited. As the parent, you’re the teacher. Set a good example by introducing a wide variety of whole foods and encouraging your child to try new ones.
Here are a few tips, gleaned from academic research focused on ways to encourage good nutrition habits in children.
Suffer the little children to come unto the kitchen.
With its obvious potential hazards (sharp knives, steam, hot burners, etc.) many parents’ first instinct is to shoo kids away from the kitchen. But research shows that kids who are included in meal planning and preparation are more likely to sample new foods and try new dishes. They’re even more likely to choose these foods again outside of the home than kids who did not participate in preparing them.
Avoid nagging your child to “take a bite”.
Encouraging your child to at least sample a new food seems like a no-brainer. Some parents even tie willingness to try new foods to rewards, such as additional television viewing time. But that strategy is likely to backfire, say experts. They might be coerced into eating a given food temporarily, but could develop a negative association with it in the longterm. Better to present new foods, and treat them neutrally, offering neither reward nor punishment for trying them. Kids are more likely to come around on their own schedule, without learning to “hate” the new food.
Check back tomorrow for more useful tips for getting your child on the path to a lifetime of healthful eating.