As parents, the dinner table can feel like a battleground when you have a picky eater. However, our CDC staff knows the secrets to make mealtime a pleasant experience for the whole family! Dealing with picky eaters is a common challenge, but with patience and creativity, you can turn dinner into a feast of fun while also building your child’s interest in options beyond the childhood go-to’s such as chicken nuggets and fries.
7 Tips to Help Expand Your Picky Eater’s Palette
It’s essential to approach mealtime with love, patience and understanding. These simple tips can create a positive environment that helps expand your little one’s palette.
1. Create a Positive Mealtime Environment
Make mealtime a pleasant and relaxed experience for your child! Avoid pressuring or forcing them to eat, as this can create mealtime anxiety and resistance. Instead, create a positive and inviting atmosphere where they can explore and enjoy new foods at their own pace.
2. Offer an Appetizing Variety of Foods
Did you know repeated exposure to new foods increases the likelihood of acceptance? Expose your picky eater to a diverse range of foods, including fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains and incorporate different colors, textures and flavors to make the meal visually appealing.
3. Be a Role Model
Children often imitate their parents’ eating habits. Demonstrate a positive attitude toward food and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods yourself. Sitting together during mealtimes can also positively influence and encourage your picky eater to join in the family dining experience.
4. Involve Your Child in Meal Preparation
Who hasn’t once dreamed of becoming a chef? Allow your child to explore their culinary sensibilities by inviting them to meal preparation and cooking activities. Let them participate in age-appropriate tasks, such as washing vegetables, stirring or arranging food on the plate. This involvement can increase their interest in trying new foods and empower them to take ownership of their meals.
5. Be Patient and Persistent
Patience is key when dealing with picky eaters. Continue offering various nutritious options, and refrain from making mealtimes stressful. Consistency and persistence will pay off over time. As a rule of thumb, your child may need to try a food 10 or more times before they know if they truly like or dislike it.
6. Offer Small Portions
When in doubt, start small! Beginning with smaller portions of new or disliked foods can help avoid overwhelming your child. This approach allows them to taste and explore without feeling pressured to finish a large portion. Praise their efforts, regardless of whether they finish the food or not, to reinforce positive associations with trying new foods.
7. Respect Food Preferences
Respect your child’s food preferences while also encouraging a balanced diet. Allow them to have some control over their meals by offering choices within healthy options. As their tastes evolve, be open to adjusting your meal plans accordingly.
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For more than 40 years, Children’s Discovery Center has helped guide and expand the minds of Toledo’s youngest explorers. Our dedicated staff nurtures children into lifelong learners by providing an innovative environment promoting self-led discovery. Contact us today to learn more about our Reggio Emilia approach to learning, register your child and tour our facilities.