How To Get Picky Eaters To Eat Real Food
I have three children and meal times can be quite challenging especially if you want to introduce new foods. I would like to share my experience with my first two boys who eat anything I put in front of them now (they can eat!) But, it wasn’t always the case. As a matter of fact, our last son is going through that phase right now but it takes a lot of patience and understanding in order to make any kind of progress but even if your little one tries one little item, it should be acknowledged and celebrated!
If you are having this issue right now, whatever you do please don’t turn lunch and dinner into a battlefield otherwise your child will associate eating with being angry and we all know, eating should be an enjoyable experience for anyone.
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE
People are surprised when I say I love to eat (who doesn’t?). For some reason, they associate eating real foods with eating just a carrot and a lettuce leaf but they don’t know the variety of nutritious meals that can be prepared.
The thing is, a lot of us were fully immersed into health/wellness long after having children so it is most likely that we exposed our little ones to foods that aren’t meant to be consumed (such as those awful corn curls and the like!) which is literally plastic. Don’t get me started with the macaroni and cheese box…
When was the last time you heard someone say “Oh my goodness, that broccoli was just out of this world!” “Brussel sprouts are the best thing ever!” “Asparagus are so sexy!” Nope, you usually hear those comments associated with pizza, BBQ, snacks and the like. Now, of course I am not here to tell you to stop eating all your favorite things but I would like to tell you that the kind of foods you eat in one way or another, impact the way your child eats.
For instance, if your little one never sees you eating a salad with your meal (and enjoying it), do you think he/she will be willing to try one if you prepare it? Probably not.
Children follow after their parents so if you don’t eat many veggies with your meals, it is unlikely that your child will. So sometimes, if you’re not into veggies or fruits that much you might want to consider starting loving them so your little one can see how wonderful these goodies are.
START SLOW AND DO NOT GIVE UP
I don’t believe in the concept of “Let them starve and when they are hungry, they will eat”. A lot of children have sensory related issues and they do rather starve than try new foods so again, my approach applies to any child who is having difficulty in trying new things.
The key is a lot of patience and understanding. One thing that helped me was to make a list of foods they ate without issues so even though I would prepare these foods for them; I would add a new item along with their regular meal.
The unwritten rule was to give it a try even if that meant to just have a small bite. At first, their reaction to these foods was like an Oscar winning performance… like you just asked them to try poison. They gagged, spitted it out and even forced themselves to vomit. Oh the fun times. But consistency is key, and if you’re not strong enough you might feel tempted to give in and let them eat whatever they want, which of course it is usually fries, corn chips and soda right?
So please, don’t feel discouraged and keep introducing a new item every day.
WHAT IS TRUE NOURISHMENT
When my oldest son was little, it was almost impossible to get him to eat anything. This lady said to me “You know what? I know this advice isn’t good but have you ever tried French fries?” Back then, I wasn’t into health and even though I wasn’t crazy about the idea of him eating fries, I was so desperate to get him to eat ANYTHING that I said to myself, heck why not. Well, after he tried French fries for the first time he was hooked.
Sometimes we are in our wits end and we’re willing to allow them to eat anything without realizing that just because they are “eating” doesn’t mean they’re receiving any nourishment. I know…I know, it is hard and it is indeed a process so please don’t stress yourself over it. As long as you place some veggies and fruits in their plate to start, you are good to go! Exposure to real foods is very important.
Most of the time, all it takes is time and as they get older and they participate in more extra-curricular activities (and their appetite increases) they will start eating all the foods you offer to them. Everyone has food preferences, but it is important for us to continue offering healthier alternatives that can provide our little ones (and not so little ones!) with all the vitamins and nutrients needed for proper physical and mental development.
INCENTIVES AND MORE INCENTIVES
If your child is a picky eater, incentives do work in the long run. One thing is to miss dessert one day but another a whole week. Just make sure you have realistic expectations. Remember, the point is to make progress with your child so if you try to force him to eat a huge plate of asparagus or otherwise “he won’t get any dessert” it is most likely that he/she will fail and let me tell you, if he/she fails enough times they will give up.
You don’t want that to happen. The goal of the incentives is for them to try the new foods (with a lot of encouragement and praise) so they can also see the progress they are making. I’m a firm believer in a gentle approach with regards to food.
I’m hoping these tips were useful and I am sure you have quite a few stories to tell me about the things that worked for you and your little one. So I am all ears, what worked for you!?