Raising a picky eater is not easy, and the feelings that come with getting a child to eat well can range from frustrated to discouraged to plain worried that the child just doesn’t get adequate nutrients to grow healthfully. But when your picky eater does finally try a new food or finishes his vegetables, your triumph is bigger for all the struggles you and your child have overcome together. There is hope, and you are not alone. Here at ZisBoomBah, we have not only talked to many parent raising picky eaters, but we also tirelessly quiz our child health and nutrition experts on their secrets and finest healthy tips for getting kids to eat healthy — particularly picky eaters.
Here, our “best of” list of smart solutions for picky eaters:
Involve Your Picky Eater in the Kitchen
When school starts again, engage your picky eater in planning, preparing and packing her school lunch with you, starting with shopping for the ingredients together. ZisBoomBah has plenty of super easy school lunch ideas kids can make themselves!
When it comes to improving your picky eater’s mealtime behavior, getting her on board is a critical step to motivation! Involving kids is essential to being successful in achieving the goals you set with them and for them — in the case of a picky eater goals could range from trying a new vegetable for overcoming adversity to a particular texture. Sometimes, motivation does not come naturally. Learn from our psychology expert — who says, “You have to elicit motivation from your child” — how to listen for what could positively influence your child to do something by applying a strategy used by professionals: motivational interviewing. Read more in “Healthy vs. Happy — Part 2: How to involve and motivate kids.”
Make “Healthy” Fun
Navigating a picky eater through mealtime may not be one of the biggest joys of parenthood. So, taking a lighter hearted approach to food and thinking about ways to make healthy eating fun can feel overwhelming at first.But bribing, coaxing or even threatening are hardly effective strategies to get a picky eater to eat his veggies. Why not turn healthy eating into a game? An adventure? That’s what ZisBoomBah.com is all about. Remember, at ZisBoomBah, it’s ok to play with your food.
What’s more, it’s important to give your picky eater some slack and find a balance between the foods you want him to eat and “sometimes foods,” such as ice cream or cookies (and if you are a regular ZisBoomBah reader, you know very well that it’s easy to pack nutrition even into treats).
Be Your Picky Eater’s Healthy Hero
Are you ready for an inconvenient truth? Modeling good eating behavior is essential to getting your picky eater to eat healthy. In our article, “Change – Who, Me? Modeling Healthy Eating Is Tough but Important, ZisBoomBah’s mealtime psychology expert Dr. Beth Lonergan explains the concept of modeling as an effective tool for helping kids develop good behaviors, and even to alter less desirable ones. When we, as parents, model healthy eating behavior, we provide a clear example kids can follow. We show them how to do something new. In modeling healthy eating, parents can illustrate how to make choices, what it takes eat well and how to enjoy treats in moderation. When there is greater consistency between what we say and what we do, it sends a more powerful message that is more apt to yield the kind of results we want to see. Read more »
You are a terribly picky eater yourself? Then read “How Not to Pass on Your Own Lousy Eating Behaviors to Your Kids,” where Dr. Lonergan gives solid advice on how to come to terms with your own eating behavior issues and start modeling good eating behavior for a new generation of picky eaters. Read more »
Empower Your Picky Eater to Make Healthy Choices
When you arm your child with knowledge about how the food she eats every day impacts her body, you’d be surprised how quickly children make it their mission to learn more about healthy eating, like they mean it. They own it. We get to witness this process every time we watch kids — so eager to learn — play ZisBoomBah’s fun food games. Don’t miss our article “Fun Games: Girl Scout plays 19 ZisBoomBah quests, changes family’s eating habits.”
Lastly, try not to be too controlling, or it might backfire.
Train Your Picky Eater’s Taste Buds to Like Healthy
Picky eaters like tastes they are used too. The good news is that you’re the coach of your child’s taste buds — you can train them to like real, wholesome foods. ZisBoomBah’s nutritionist Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD says, it’s difficult to get kids to like healthy foods they are unfamiliar with, if their taste buds are mostly used to very sweet, very salty or bland flavors from eating kids’ foods with a ton of added sugar, high-sodium prepared meals and snacks and “beige” foods (fries, nuggets, white bread, low-fiber cereals, waffles, etc.).
We know how tempting it is to keep feeding your picky eater what you know he will eat. Of course he will eat it, if that’s what his taste buds know and crave. This feeding strategy, however, it not conducive to change for the better; to the contrary. It takes kids five to six times seeing and tasting something new before they will really like it. Training your kids’ taste buds is like training a puppy: Be patient, expect accidents and give them plenty of positive reinforcement.
Even food writer and mommy blogger Kate Sullivan Morford agrees that it’s tricky to sway kids towards wholesome, real foods that are good for them. Nevertheless, she says, “When you raise your children in a certain way, they grow accustomed to certain foods and flavors. They become more naturally drawn to healthy food and not so interested in fast food. That being said, kids are kids, and they still want candy.”
Also, don’t miss: “Recovering Picky Eater and Food Blogger Jenna Pepper — How She Does It” and “Help, My Kid’s Addicted to Sugar!“