I've had a lot of different kids in my home at various times- my own kids, kids I've babysat, kids we've taken in when they had no other places to go, and my kids friends. I'm always amazed at how unique each child is, and one of those things that each child varies in, is what they will eat. I've had kids who refused food due to the color, ones who eat anything in front of them, ones who ate only what they saw other kids eating, and ones who had very specific "will" and "will not eat" lists. Having a picky eater can be tough to handle each day- you want to make sure that your kids are getting the nutrition they need and set them up with healthy eating habits, but too often, eating can become a battle ground. If you are looking to avoid a war during dinner time, here's a few tips I have found to be helpful--
- Have the kids help prepare a meal- no matter what their age is, they can help you cook in one way or another. When my older kids were really little, I put all the ingredients to things in small bowls and just had them pour things in. As they got older, we worked with the "heat" a bit more, and adding cutting things in. My sixteen and thirteen year olds can now cook on their own- they have even made pizza crust from scratch. Kids are much more likely to eat the things that they prepare, and with the added benefit of them being able to cook for themselves later, you can't go wrong with this!
- Learn about the things you are feeding them- my kids hated apples, but we spent some time learning about where they come from, how they are grown, and went to a farm to pick them. Now, apples are one of their favorite things to eat! Get creative and come up with some ways to teach them about where their food comes from- you can take a trip to the grocery store, visit a local farm, or just get some videos from the Internet. Those fruits and veggies will be much more exciting when they learn the whole process of how they get to their plate.
- Teach them about why we eat food- it's not just because food is yummy, but it's because our bodies need it! Talk about why our bodies need food, take a look at what types of nutrients are most important to have and what foods we can eat to get them.
- Encourage them to try new things- don't make this a battle, but create and environment where trying new things is a positive experience. If they don't like it, it's ok to not have more, but you never know what you like until you try!
- Serve a variety- I try to serve a variety of things at dinner. It's likely that one of the dishes we are serving the child will like, they can have one serving of that item. If they want seconds, they have to give another part of the meal a try. This usually helps them to eat a variety. They may not always be willing to eat something else, but presenting the option to them helps them make those choices later.
- Limit the snacking- snacks are good, it's best if a person eats smaller meals all day long instead of big meals, so you don't want to cut out snacks. However, you can limit the options for snacks and limit the times so that they aren't grazing on food all day long. It's also good for dental health if they take some breaks in between meals so they can get those teeth clean and food isn't sitting on them constantly! When they aren't filling up on snacks all day, they are also more likely to eat what you have presented them instead of just holding out for a "better" snack later.
- Be an example- if you want your kids to have healthy eating habits, show them how to do it!