Children understand the value of good nutrition. They recognize that vegetables, grains, and legumes are important parts of a healthy diet – even if they don’t always taste as good as corn dogs and gummy bears – and that a healthy diet is one of the key building blocks for good health. They never refuse to eat something based purely on emotions or the physical appearance of what’s sitting on a plate, and they are always eager and excited to try new and unknown cuisine, especially when reassured that said new food is full of important vitamins and nutrients.
You know that this is absolutely false. Children are some of the pickiest eaters. They don’t think about the foods that they need to eat in order to be healthy and to grow up strong. They just want to eat what tastes good, no matter how unhealthy it is.
Rather than give in and let your child eat junk food, you want to help them make better eating choices. But it’s not always easy to get picky eaters to eat healthy foods. Dinnertime shouldn’t feel like a western showdown with stink eyes and high tension. Here are 5 ways to help picky eaters.
- Make eating healthy a fun and enjoyable experience. Chopping up raw broccoli into a heap and shoving in front of your child without ceremony is a great way to discourage them from ever eating broccoli for the rest of his or her life. Add seasonings, or play with arrangement, shapes, and colors to make eating healthy more fun.
- Introducing new foods can take time. Tastes can change over time, and taste buds actually go through their life cycle in a matter of days. Placing a mountain of Brussels sprouts in front of your child, saying neither one of you leaves until the mountain is consumed, and having a battle of wills isn’t the best approach. Try a little give and take, and don’t give up when trying to introduce new foods. Take small steps to try and get your child to try food rather than giving a staunch ultimatum.
- Explain the importance of a healthy diet. This will usually be met with a blank stare, but reiterating the importance of healthy foods will help children learn healthy eating habits over the long run. Don’t get hung up on trying to teach your children that vegetables are tasty. Teach them that vegetables are important for staying healthy.
- Lead by example. You shouldn’t expect children to want to eat their vegetables if your plate is suspiciously lacking any discernible amount of green. It’s just as important for adults to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet as it is for children. Make sure that parents and children eat the same foods. Not only is it easier to get children to eat foods that you are eating, but it also sets a good precedent.
- Be discreet. Patience and persistence might eventually lead to your child eating his or her vegetables, but it’s also important for children to eat healthy foods now. Adding healthy foods to dishes that your children already enjoy is a good way to deliver some extra nutrients to a picky eater. Adding spinach to a smoothie or squash to spaghetti sauce will add nutritional value without disturbing the flavor they’re familiar with.