What To Do with Picky Eaters: 20 Ways to Promote Healthy Eating

Parents face a bewildering challenge when it comes to navigating the realm of picky eaters and establishing wholesome dietary habits.

But fret not, as we at Omega Pediatrics present you with effective ways to promote healthy eating and transform mealtimes into harmonious and enriching experiences. Now, you wouldn’t have a problem with what to do with picky eaters!

picky-eater

You’re in Charge of Your Child’s Food Intake!

As your child’s growing buddy, you play an important role in shaping their eating habits. By providing nutritious options and modeling healthy eating behaviors, you can influence their food choices positively.

You have the power to create a balanced diet for your child. Fill your child’s plate with colorful fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. This ensures they receive essential nutrients for growth and development.

But how do you do that if your child is a fussy eater?

Ways to Promote Healthy Eating in Children

Wondering what to do with picky eaters? We at Omega Pediatrics offer you expert advice for dealing with picky eaters. Here are 20 tips and strategies to encourage nutritious choices.

1.   Limit unhealthy food and snacks at home.

Creating a healthy food environment starts at home. Minimize the availability of unhealthy snacks and processed foods, steering your child towards nutritious options.

Keep your pantry stocked with wholesome snacks—fresh fruits, nuts, or yogurt. Limit sugary treats and salty snacks, leaving your child with no choice but to consume healthy snacks because that’s what’s available.

2.   Involve your kids in the food preparation.

Engaging in meal preparation fosters a sense of ownership and curiosity about food. Invite your child to join you in the kitchen and let them assist in preparing a meal.

Your child can help wash the vegetables for a salad or mix the ingredients for a homemade smoothie. They’ll be more inclined to try the foods they helped prepare by being involved in the process.

3.   Be honest about the ingredients.

Sharing information about the nutritional benefits of different foods, especially when introducing something new, helps build trust with your picky eater. Explain the nutritional value of the ingredients.

For instance, when cooking a vegetable stir-fry, mention that the colorful bell peppers are packed with vitamin C. And go further by explaining how Vitamin C helps—it keeps the body’s immune system strong.

4.   Know your child’s taste preferences.

This helps you tailor meals to your child’s liking while gradually expanding their palate. Pay attention to their likes and dislikes, and leverage them to introduce new flavors.

If your child loves the tangy taste of citrus fruits, try incorporating a squeeze of lemon or lime into their water or using citrus-based dressings for salads. This way, you introduce new flavors while building on their existing preferences.

5.   Try different food combinations.

Get creative with food combinations, making meals exciting and appealing to picky eaters. Combine familiar and unfamiliar ingredients to expand their food choices.

For example, if your child loves grilled cheese sandwiches, try adding a slice of tomato or avocado for added nutrition. The familiar taste of the cheese will make the new ingredients more approachable.

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6.   Play with condiments.

Condiments enhance food flavor, making them appealing to fussy eaters. Experiment with different sauces, dips, and seasonings to make meals tastier and encourage exploration. Offer a variety of condiments, like salsa, hummus, or low-sugar ketchup.

These flavorful additions make vegetables, grilled meats, or whole-grain crackers enjoyable for your picky eater.

7.   Work on your food presentation skills.

Presentation plays a big role in enticing picky eaters. Make meals visually appealing by arranging ingredients creatively and using colorful plates or garnishes. Turn mealtime into a feast for the eyes.

Arrange sliced fruits in a rainbow pattern or create a funny face on their plate using vegetables. The visual appeal makes the meal inviting and exciting.

8.   Regularly introduce your child to new foods.

Consistently exposing your fussy eater to new foods expands their taste preferences. Be patient and persistent, as it may take several attempts before they accept a new food. Go on food trips to explore different kinds, developing an adventurous palate for your child!

Introduce a new food regularly, like a different fruit or vegetable each week. Encourage your child to take a small bite and ask how it tastes and the texture. With time, they develop a liking for the once-unfamiliar food.

9.   Start small.

To avoid overwhelming your picky eater, offer a small portion alongside familiar foods to increase the likelihood of acceptance. Gradually increase the portion size as your child becomes more comfortable with the new food.

For example, introduce a new vegetable like broccoli by serving a small amount alongside their favorite protein and starch. As they become accustomed to the taste and texture, gradually increase the portion size.

10.  Work on the mindful eating technique.

Mindful eating develops a healthy relationship with food. Teach your child the 5 S’s of mindful eating. Your child sits down, slowly chews his food, savors each bite, simplifies it by putting the healthy food right in front of him and smiles as he takes a satisfying bite.

This meditation-like food-eating technique helps your child become in tune with his body’s needs and preferences, creating a positive food environment.

11.  Remove eating distractions.

Designate mealtime as a screen-free zone. Turn off the television, put away electronic devices, and create a wholesome ambiance for your picky eater to fully engage with their meal. Encourage them to focus on the flavors, smells, and textures of the food.

12.  Lessen unhealthy snacks between meals.

This ensures that your fussy eater is hungry during mealtimes. Encourage nutrient-rich snacks and establish consistent meal and snack schedules. Nutritious snacks could be sliced fruits, vegetable sticks with hummus, or yogurt with granola.

These options keep your child satisfied between meals and reduce the tendency to rely on less nutritious snacks.

13.  Don’t make food as a punishment or a reward.

This creates an unhealthy relationship with food and reinforces picky eating behaviors. Instead, focus on promoting positive associations with nutritious choices. Celebrate achievements with non-food rewards like extra playtime, a special outing, or a small toy.

For example, do not reward your child with candies or chocolates if they get high grades because this labels candies and chocolates as ‘good’ food. Conversely, don’t punish your child with bitter vegetables because this labels them as food that ‘people don’t like.’

14.  Let your child dine with his friends.

This gives your child the opportunity to observe and learn from their peers’ eating habits. It encourages them to try new foods in a social setting, especially if everyone eats healthy foods. Allow your child to dine out at restaurants or a friend’s house.

Being in social settings creates a relaxed atmosphere for trying new foods and expanding their palate.

15.  Eat as a family.

Create a routine where everyone sits down for meals together, fostering a sense of connection and encouraging healthy eating. Set aside dedicated family mealtimes, even if it’s just for dinner. Make it a time to share stories, connect, and enjoy a nutritious meal together.

Your child feels comfortable trying new foods if everyone eats the same thing in the supportive presence of their family.

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16.  Lead by example.

Show enthusiasm for nutritious foods and demonstrate a balanced approach to eating. Ensure your child sees you enjoying a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Explain the benefits of these foods, and let them realize that healthy eating is a regular part of your life as well. You can also consistently say, “This pickle tastes so good!” to convince your kid to try it.

17.  Don’t pressure or force your picky eater to eat.

This can create anxiety and resistance around mealtimes. Respect their autonomy and allow them to listen to their hunger and fullness cues. Avoid power struggles during mealtime. Instead, offer a variety of foods, letting your child decide what and how much to eat.

By respecting their choices, you create a positive environment that may encourage healthy eating on their own.

18.  Stop complaining about not eating in front of your child.

Avoid expressing frustration or negative emotions about your child’s eating habits in front of them. Maintain a positive atmosphere during mealtimes. For example, don’t confront your child by saying, “You’re such a picky eater!”.

Avoid getting upset when your child refuses to eat certain foods. Sometimes, the more you get mad, the more your child will internalize it and label herself as a picky eater. Instead, focus on the foods they are enjoying and encourage them to explore new options.

19.  Be patient.

Overcoming selective eating in children takes time. It’s a gradual process, and your picky eater may need repeated exposure to new foods before accepting them. It might even take them 20 tries before they accept eating that food!

Stay positive, celebrate small victories, and be patient with their progress. Acknowledge their efforts in trying new foods, even if it’s just a tiny bite. Praise their willingness to explore new flavors and encourage them. With time, their taste preferences will expand.

20.  Seek help from your child’s pediatrician or nutritionist.

Consult a health professional for guidance if your picky eater’s eating habits significantly impact his growth or if you’re concerned about his nutrient intake. A pediatrician or nutritionist can provide advice and strategies to support your child’s healthy eating.

If you’re experiencing persistent difficulties with your fussy eater’s eating habits, we at Omega Pediatrics can help you with that. We assess the situation, provide tailored recommendations, and even refer you to feeding therapy for picky eaters if needed.

Turn Meal Time into Fun Time

Transforming mealtimes with picky eaters is no easy task, especially if you have no idea what to do with them! However, you can make mealtimes a delightful and enriching experience for your child with these 20 ways to promote healthy eating in children!

These wholesome dietary habits for kids can ignite curiosity and expand their palate. So, turn meal time into fun time and embark on the rewarding adventure of promoting healthy eating habits!

With dedication, creativity, and love, you lay the foundation for a lifetime of nutritious choices and well-being. Bon appétit!

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