Many parents believe there is no solution to their child’s picky eating habits, but the good news is there are many strategies to teach children to eat a well-rounded and healthy diet. If children are taught good nutrition at a young age, they will most likely carry these healthy habits into adulthood.
The best place to start is letting your child help you plan the menu, grocery shop and prepare meals. Research shows that if children are involved in this process, they are more likely to eat the foods they worked so hard to plan and prepare.
Modeling is another great strategy to get your child to eat new foods. Watching a parent role model healthy eating increases a child’s food acceptance. If the parent is eating their broccoli at dinner, most children will follow in their footsteps!
It can take 10 to 12 experiences with a new food before a child will accept it. Try different ways of presenting the food and keep in mind that repeated exposure to foods is key to gaining a child’s approval. Read books about fruits and vegetables and use outings like going to the grocery store as an opportunity to teach nutrition. Go on a fun day trip to an orchard or farm to show kids where their food comes from before the grocery store.
Sometimes no matter what you do, your child still refuses to eat! This can be frustrating, but forcing your child to eat can actually teach them to overeat. We have to trust that our children’s bodies know when they are hungry and full. Put their meal in the refrigerator for when they are hungry. Remember, don’t replace a healthy meal or snack with an alternative if the child isn’t eating, simply save it for later.
Additional health and nutrition information can be found at MissouriFamilies.org.
Contributors: Jenna Silverthorne, Dietetic Intern, KU Med, & Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org