Trying to get a picky eater to eat anything beyond their 3 or 4 ‘favorites’ can be quite an adventure as a parent. One day they love bananas, eating 2 or 3 a day for breakfast, lunch and snack time, and the next you couldn’t get them to take a single bite if their lives depended on it!
As a recovering picky eater myself, I understand what picky eaters are being so picky about. My mother says I was such a picky eater that I used to pick the carrots out of carrot cake! These picky eating habits are especially difficult for parents who have never experienced being picky themselves.
How to Help Your Picky Eater be Less Picky
#1 Stay Calm – Adding anger, stress and pressure to a picky eater doesn’t help the situation. You may succeed in forcing them to choke down their peas, but that doesn’t help your long-term goal of raising a healthy eater.
Creating negative associations with food can last a long time! My parents once forced me to eat cooked asparagus, which I promptly threw up all over the kitchen table and to this day cooked asparagus is a tough one for me because it always makes me think of that unpleasant event!
#2 Texture Texture Texture! – Did I mention texture? Try serving your picky eater fruits and veggies in different forms and textures. For example, if your toddler can’t stand cooked peas, try serving them raw!
Texture can be one of the biggest hold ups for a picky eater. The key is finding out what textures they like and focusing on expanding their food choices within that category. Maybe they like crunchy, or perhaps smooth, some may prefer bumpy (like broccoli). Every picky eater is different! So if your picky eater turns their nose up at steamed carrots, try raw slices instead or maybe even grated carrots!
#3: Serve Small Portions – Trying new food can be far less intimidating when it’s just a small bite or two. If you heap a large portion on the plate, it can be as daunting to a picky eater as climbing Mount Everest!
The goal is to create successes for your picky eater. Getting them to try one small bite is worth celebrating! One bite at a time is the way to work with picky eaters! It took me two years to learn to enjoy red peppers, starting with a bite that was about the size of a pencil eraser! Consider it taste bud training where every little bite makes a difference and overtime adds up!
#4: Make it fun – Kids want to have fun – that’s what makes them such great people to be around! So when you want to get your kids on board for something, try making a game out of it! Look at your kitchen through the eyes of your little one and suddenly the salad spinner becomes a merry-go-round for lettuce and the sink turns into a carwash for vegetable shaped vehicles! Use mini cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes in fruits and vegetables. Get them involved! Keeping things light and fun will help your picky eater be more open to trying new things!
Kia Robertson is a mom and the creator of the Today I Ate A Rainbow kit; a tool that helps parents establish healthy eating habits by setting the goal of eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.