Pouty faces, pushed-away plates, and loud proclamations of “Eww!” are no one’s idea of fun, and yet every parent knows them. From deciding that anything green is downright evil, to little quirks such as refusing to eat anything with a crust or anything that isn’t round, children who are picky eaters can often be very exhausting. The amount of organization and effort required to prepare meals that they won’t hate takes its toll on an already tired parent, so finding a solution and changing your child’s eating habits is important. To help you out, we’ve prepared a few tips that should teach them which food to eat and how to enjoy it.
Don’t use food as a reward
Especially not junk food. If they come to associate food with some sort of a twisted reward system they’ll be more likely to start relating chocolate, snacks, and burgers to good feelings, and healthy nutrition to something dull and sad. In fact, if you can avoid junk food altogether, do it. Veggies aren’t supposed to be a punishment, they’re delicious in their own right so try not to treat them as something that they simply have to do so they’d “earn” junk food.
Don’t give ultimatums
Speaking of veggies and punishments, be careful with giving your child ultimatums. “No video games until you’ve eaten your broccoli” might be a somewhat effective to get them to clean up their plate. However, it contributes to that unhealthy mindset that makes them think healthy food is some sort of an obligation.
Stick to a schedule
Routine is extremely important for children, and serving them their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks at the same time every day helps them develop a normal appetite. They’ll have less sugar cravings and get used to eating what’s served in front of them if they know that the next meal is a while away. Family dinners are also an important bonding experience that gives the family a chance to get together and talk about how they spent their day.
Make sure everything is fresh
Fresh food not only tastes better, but it also looks better. Picky eaters usually need their food to look visually appealing, so always store everything in containers with tight lids, and keep their school lunch in colorful boxes. It’s a good idea to have a quality Electrolux refrigerator in your home so you can keep produce fresh and tasty, especially if you want them to start eating more fruits and veggies.
Get creative with decorations
To relate this to the previous note, the appearance of your child’s plate can make a huge difference. The way you arrange food can delight them, and most kids would much rather eat peas and carrots if they are made to look like a palm tree, or a smiley face with a big nose. Get creative with decorations and they’ll like the food more.
Lead by example
You can’t exactly expect your kid to trust you on what’s healthy if you fill their plate with collard greens and put a giant slice of pizza in your own. Show them that you love healthy food and eat it often – they’ll pick up your habits.
Keep healthy snacks around
If you have chocolate and cookies in your cupboards, your kids will find them and eat them. Why wouldn’t they, if they’re so easy to reach? Instead of sugary snacks, keep healthy stuff around. Have a big bowl of fresh fruit just waiting on the kitchen table, have some homemade energy bars on the shelves, have baby carrots and celery in the fridge.
Positive reinforcement generally works much better than punishment when it comes to children, so refrain from constantly nagging and learn to give praise when praise is due. There is no need to be patronizing, but smile, be in a good mood whenever they eat well, tell them it’s cool that they’re making clever choices.
And remember, most children outgrow their aversion to certain foods at some point, especially if they aren’t constantly made to feel bad about avoiding it. Take it easy, one step at a time, and you’ll teach them to eat well.