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How to Handle Picky Eaters - Medically Speaking, Volume Two, Number Three, 9/11/2014

My oldest child grew up eating all sorts of vegetables and fruits. He would eat a supreme pizza just like the rest of us. Then one day his older cousin told him that she only liked cherry tomatoes, not regular tomatoes. From then on, my healthy, non-picky eater refused to eat tomatos all together. And he has passed it down to all of his siblings. FRUSTRATION!

Many parents struggle with kids that are picky eaters. Hardly a meal goes by that you aren't arguing about how many bite they have to eat in order to be done or have dessert. If you are like me, it is very frusterating. I just prepared a healthy balanced meal for you and all you will eat is your roll?

Here are a few tips for dealing with a picky eater:

  • Don't get into the arguement of how many bites they have to eat. Serve them a healthy meal and let them pick what to try. Dessert should not depend upon eating their spinach. You may feel like you are getting taken advantage of when your child gets "rewarded" for not eating their dinner. Try eliminating dessert altogether or offering it with the meal so that kids realize it is a regular part of the meal.
  • Be a good example. Kids are going to enjoy a greater variety of foods if they see their parents enjoying them too.
  • Offer new foods often. Kids often need exposure to a new food 10-15 times before they decide they like it. Even seeing it on their plate and never tasting it is exposure.
  • Let them help prepare the meals. If your child helped you make baked zucchini fries, they are much more likely to eat them.
  • Dress them up. Typically we try to avoid adding extra fat and sodium to veggies and fruits. But when introducing a new food it can help. Let them eat more ranch than cucumber, as long as they are getting some cucumber. The cucumber to ranch ratio will eventually even out (hopefully).
  • Stick to a routine. Offering meals and snacks at the same time will allow your child to come to meals hungry. If a child fills up on milk or juice before dinner they are less likely to eat their food. A routine also allows you to not give in to a snack 30 minutes after breakfast. You know that snack time is just around the corner, at say 10 O'clock.
  • Do not be a short order cook. Prepare your kids the same meal that you are having. Do make sure that there is at least one familiar food for them to fill up on.
  • Encourage children to stay at the dinner table for a designated period of time. This will allow them more time to eat and provide an opportunity for family discussion.
  • Don't buy unhealthy foods. "Out of sight, Out of mind" is the goal here. If your child knows there is always a bag of chips that he can sneak anytime he's hungry, he is less likely to eat his meal.

It is common for kids to go through periods of being picky eaters. Do your best to not make a big deal of it. Continue to provide healthy, attractive meals and your kids will eventually start eating at least some of it. My kids may not eat tomatoes, but they do fight over broccoli.

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