Most parents have had to deal with a picky eater in the family while their kids are growing up. You want your children to eat healthy, nutritious meals, but you don’t want the dinner table to become a battleground every evening. Here’s some advice for feeding your family without unnecessary struggle:
• Start early. Get your children used to eating fruits and vegetables as soon as your pediatrician says you can. Helping them develop a taste for good food when they’re young will influence their choices positively when they’re older.
• Stick to a routine. Eat at the same time every day so kids know when to expect their meals. Limit between-meal snacks so children aren’t full when they sit down to the table.
• Introduce new foods gradually. Offer something different along with foods that are familiar. Be patient as your child gets used to a new fruit or vegetable—you may have to serve it more than once before he or she accepts it.
• Set the right example. Be willing to try new foods and meals yourself, to show your family that everyone should experiment. Don’t reject something you don’t like immediately; try a little of it, and resist the urge to say, “I hate this,” even if it doesn’t appeal to you.
• Get kids involved. As soon as they’re ready, ask your children to help decide on your mealtime menus and preparation. They’ll be more likely to eat a taco they make themselves, especially if they have some choice over what they put in it.
• Keep mealtimes short. Don’t expect your children to try something new when they’re bored or restless. Try to keep lunch and dinner down to 10-15 minutes so they don’t feel trapped and resentful at the table.
• Don’t force kids to eat. Encouraging them to eat good food is important, but insisting they eat something they don’t want can backfire, leading to them eating less, or overeating unhealthy foods they prefer. You want to teach your children to make good choices, not make every food decision for them.