Do you wish that you could get your picky eater to choose healthy food choices? Kids are picky eaters by nature and most will refuse to try new foods based upon how it looks or smells, even if it contains ingredients that they normally would eat. From my experience, when my kids were little I would introduce them to healthy food choices. All of my kids didn’t care for baby food, except for the fruits. They would spit out the baby food and stare at us while we were eating.
Once they turned up their nose to baby food, I started introducing vegetables that I could easily smash with a fork or chop it into tiny bite-sized pieces. They would gobble it up and want more. As they get older, they start forgetting that they once enjoyed healthy foods and opt for their favorite foods only.
How to Get a Picky Eater to Choose Healthy Foods
Here are a few tips on how to get your picky eater to choose healthy foods.
Put Healthy Food Options on Their Plate
In the past, I have always encouraged my kids to try at least one bite to help overcome being a picky eater. But I’m learning that this method isn’t the best way to handle the situation. Instead, encourage them to try it. Keep in mind that most kids will reject trying new foods at least 8 to 10 times before they actually have the courage to give it a try. So don’t get frustrated with them if you put it on their plate and they refuse to try it. Eventually, they may change their mind and give it a try.
Let Them Pick Out Healthy Options
My kids love going to the grocery store because it means they get to choose a few things that they enjoy that I might typically pass up. However, when I want them to try new foods, I let them browse and pick out some new choices. I prefer that they pick out only healthy choices but other times they can pick one thing that they love. I do this to help encourage them to try new foods and to stop being a picky eater.
I’ve found that when they are able to pick out healthy food options that they were more likely to try it. Even though it seems easier just to hurry up and get dinner on the table, next time take a moment and slow down when you prepare their new food choice. Allow them to help you prep, cook, and serve it. Cooking together is fun and it also teaches them skills that they will need in a few years.
Offer New Choices with Their Favorite Meal
Most kids are a picky eater and as a parent it is frustrating. They may eventually grow out of it while others remain picky eaters even as an adult. Next time you want to offer new healthy food options, pair it with their favorite meal.
Serving their favorite meal will get them excited for dinner time. When they are excited that they are having their familiar favorite dish, they may be more willing to try out that new food that they picked out at the grocery store. But don’t force the issue if they change their mind.
Never Make Food Choices Off-Limits
As tempting as it can be, it is never a good idea to tell your child that certain foods are off-limits. It is better to use this as the time to teach them healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood. When you limit food choices, it makes them want it more and feeds their picky earter habits.
Restricting foods can also cause eating disorders, bulimia, or make them feel guilty if they consume them. Plus when your teenager gets a job, you will likely discover them sneaking around you to get their fix. They will find a way to get the foods that you consider off-limits whether it is at school, from a friend, or they will purchase them themselves when they have money.
Instead, teach your child about healthy eating habits, proper nutrition, and portion control as they are growing up. This will help them make healthy choices and teach them about enjoying their favorites in moderation.
Keep Healthy Food Choices Readily Available
Kids naturally gravitate towards foods that they enjoy rather than running to the refrigerator to grab an apple. My son will reach for an apple if I use the apple slicer and give him a bit of caramel dip for him to dip his apples in. Offering him caramel apples makes it easier to get him to choose a healthy snack.
You can limit how much junk food you keep around the house but don’t cut it out entirely. Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy options. When they have healthy options, they are more likely to try something new.
Praise Your Child for Choosing Healthy Food
Next time you see your child reaching for a healthy snack or trying new food at mealtime, always praise your child. Praising your child is a positive response to something they choose to do that is a good choice and if you offer words of praise or encouragement, your child is likely to continue making healthy choices when selecting food.
It is also important that you don’t talk negatively when they reach for unhealthy choices. Instead, continue to offer them healthy foods and plenty of praise.
Never Use Food as a Reward
Using food as a reward could actually contribute to obesity or long term weight problems as they get older. Instead, pick another way to reward them for their good behavior or for doing their chores. Here is a of 10 non-food ways to reward your child to create your own reward system that works for you and your children.
Hide Vegetables in Your Recipes
Do you want your kids to eat more vegetables? There is a way to get your kids to eat their vegetables without them even realizing it. Try shredding vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower or add veggies to egg dishes, pizza, pasta. Here is a list of 40 ways to sneak veggies into any meal.
Swap Ingredients for Recipes with Healthier Choices
Did you know that you can easily swap out ingredients to make your recipes healthier without sacrificing taste? This is a great way to help get your kids accustomed to choosing healthier options when they eat. These changes are likely to go unnoticed if you don’t mention it. Try replacing oil with unsweetened apple sauce, sour cream with plain yogurt or use low-fat sour cream, switching white rice with brown rice or quinoa, you get the point. But using healthier options will help shave off empty calories found in the unhealthy versions.
Only Offer Water When Your Kids Are Thirsty
I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t always make my children drink water. I know that sugary drinks aren’t good for them and can add additional empty calories to their diet. But I do try to limit it to one a day.
When the kids went back to school this summer, I purchase an insulated water bottle (aff link) that he can take with him to school. I fill it up with ice water every morning so that he can sip on his water at his desk. He is allowed to have water on his desk as long as it has a lid. I’m glad that schools see the importance of staying hydrated and not limit drink time to lunch, after recess or P.E. only.
Eat Meals Together
Families are busier than ever and it is rare for families to sit down to eat together. Soccer practice, dance, and afterschool activities make it difficult to even eat a healthy meal. If you are reaching for fast food every night, then you might want to look at your schedule to determine if meal planning can help you create meals on the weekend that you can heat up or even make in the crockpot while you are at work.
It is important that you take the time to sit down at the table and eat meals together. When you sit at the table together, your kids are more likely to be served healthy meals that include nutrient-rich foods, fruits, and vegetables. Most fast-food restaurants, just can’t offer a nutritionally cooked meal as you can. Plus, when you cook food at home, you know exactly what you are eating.
Make it a point to sit down and eat as many meals at the dinner table with your kids. This gives you the opportunity to model healthy eating habits, discuss everyone’s day, and spend time together as a family.
Always Serve Their Food
Never let your child serve their own food. They don’t understand or comprehend that you are supposed to serve food according to portion size. You are familiar with the proper portion sizes of portions. As a parent, you should ensure that your child is getting proper portions of each food group.
Do remember that it takes roughly 15 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Think twice before serving your child seconds or thirds. This could lead to unhealthy eating habits later in life.
Make Healthy Smoothies
Smoothies are a great way to get your child to consume healthy vegetables. Simply add vegetables such as kale or spinach, along with fruit, low-fat yogurt, and ice. I let my 4-year-old taste my smoothie and had no clue that it contained healthy ingredients like spinach. He loved it because the yogurt and fruit flavors overpowered the spinach. I also used low-fat yogurt too.
Consult Your Child’s Pediatrician
If you are concerned with your child’s weight, you should always discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. Never put your child on a weight loss plan or encourage them to gain weight. Allow your child’s doctor to make that determination. Your child’s doctor can guide you on what changes to make with their diet.
It’s true, kids can be picky eaters. But it is possible for them to choose healthy food choices too. Incorporating these ideas into your daily routine can help make it easier for your child to have access to healthy options, including fruits and vegetables. Hopefully, this will help curb their picky eater habits.