Are mealtimes with your picky eaters turning into a daily battle?
Don't worry, you're not alone.
As a parent, I've been through the struggle of trying to get my little ones to eat nutritious foods. I know how frustrating it gets. So, here I'm sharing some strategies to help you foster healthy eating habits in your picky eaters.
What's Up with Picky Eaters? Understand Their Perspective:
Imagine this scenario: You're presented with a plate of broccoli, what will be your initial reaction? Unless you are determined to eat healthy, you would find it unappetizing.
Well, guess what? That's exactly how your picky eater feels!
Put yourself in their tiny shoes and empathize with their food preferences. Now you have to approach the situation with patience and compassion. Otherwise, you would end up building a negative association towards healthy food.
Let's try this out:
You: "Hey baby, I know broccoli isn't your favorite, but did you know it can make you strong like your favorite superhero?"
Child: "Really? Like Spider-Man?"
You: "Absolutely! Spider-Man eats his veggies to stay strong and agile. Would you like to give it a try?"
Try Making Healthy Foods Fun and Engaging:
Children prefer colorful and visually appealing foods. Take advantage of this by presenting meals in a fun and creative way.
Use cookie cutters to create cute shapes out of fruits and vegetables or arrange them into smiley faces on their plate. By making healthy foods visually enticing, you'll increase the chances of your picky eater giving them a try.
You: "Look, we have a fruit rainbow today! Can you help me arrange the slices of watermelon, kiwi, and blueberries? Let's make it as colorful as possible!"
Child: "Wow, it looks so pretty! Can I have a taste?"
Take Your Picky Eater Help in Meal Planning and Preparation:
Kids love to feel involved and empowered. Take them grocery shopping and let them choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. When it's time to cook, invite them into the kitchen to help with simple tasks like washing vegetables or stirring ingredients. By involving them in the process, they'll feel a sense of ownership and pride in their meals.
You: "Today, we're going to try a new vegetable. How about we go to the store and pick one together? You can be the chief vegetable explorer!"
Child: "Yay! I want to find the biggest carrot!"
Create a Positive Eating Environment:
When you want your kids to eat, the easiest bet is to put them in front of the screen and feed the food you want them to have. But I have learned that even though we push the food, it loses its effectiveness.
There are two problems with that approach: Firstly, we need to engage all the senses - texture, smell, and color - for our brain to release the digestive juices. When children are busy watching something, they simply swallow the food without truly experiencing its flavors and benefits.
Secondly, they don't learn to enjoy the food, and this aversion can persist for a long time. In fact, when we put lot of pressure sometimes, they start resisting the sight of healthy food altogether.
The best bet is to create a mealtime free from pressure, negativity and any screen. Create a calm and inviting atmosphere by turning off distractions like TV or electronic devices. Sit together as a family and engage in light-hearted conversations. Slowly encourage your picky eater to take small bites and praise their efforts.
Remember, a positive eating environment sets the stage for healthy habits to flourish.
You: "Hey, let's play a game where we take turns naming our favorite fruits and vegetables. I'll start - I love juicy strawberries! What's your favorite?"
Child: "I like crunchy apples!"
Be a Role Model:
Children learn by observing their parents. If we don't follow what we preach, they won't do it. Show them that healthy eating is important by being a positive role model. You also need to include nutritious foods into your own meals and show them your enjoyment of them. When your child sees you savoring vegetables and trying new foods, they'll be more likely to follow suit.
You: Takes a bite of a vegetable stir-fry "Mmm, this is delicious! Want to taste?"
Child: Curiously takes a bite "Hmm, it's not bad!"
You now have a toolkit of strategies to foster healthy eating habits in your picky eater. Remember, patience and persistence are key. By understanding their perspective, making healthy foods fun, involving them in the process, creating a positive eating environment, and being a positive role model, you'll be well on your way to transforming mealtimes into a joyful and nutritious experience for the whole family. Cheers to healthy eating adventure.
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