Parenting the Picky Eater
Written by: CLARICE STOUT, MA
Many parents sometimes have a hard time instilling healthy eating habits with their children, and like many other habits getting children to eat better choices does take practice, and that is perfectly okay! Here are some tools/steps that can help children with their behaviors, attitudes, and habits about food, or in other words tools to help the picky eater.
Make some time to teach children about healthy food, such as starting up a conversation about how healthy food can make us feel happy. These kinds of conversations can happen at any time, before bed, sitting your child down and teaching them, a day walking to the park, or whenever child is content and listening. Set the example of eating more healthier foods in your household and this can very much make your child follow by example. This basically creates a normalization of healthy food in the entire household, which can lead to less upsets at the dinner table. Offer specific choices that you would feel like making for dinner, lunch, or breakfast. So, this would look like asking “would you like to eat pasta or chicken?”, instead of just broadly asking what everyone wants and leaving so many options open. Have healthier snacks and food in the home that can be available in the fridge or pantry. Getting rid of junk food or at least limiting it by a lot can again normalize healthier eating in the household for children.
Also, many times having children involved in helping in the kitchen, by letting them help with the cooking process can lead to them being more excited to try and eat the food that is prepared, especially if they are trying something new. There are many tools, steps, and techniques when it comes to helping children eating healthier and these steps can help with picky eaters. Yes, there may be times where it can feel stressful, but with patience, practice, and most importantly modeling healthy habits can go along way with time. With picky eaters another thing that seems to help is when parents get creative with dinner or even how the food is presented on the plate, so for example placing the food to look like a happy face, or a star, or in some kind of design can be more inviting for children to want to eat the food in front of them, along with cheering them on at the table and making it fun! Lastly, Heart.org recommends for picky eaters to help children with eating until they are full rather than focusing on that they finish the whole meal, because sometimes adults can be forgetful that children have smaller stomachs and forcing children to eat everything on the plate can lead to stress and upsets if the child is already saying they are full, and in turn can lead to an unhealthier habit later if they believe eating everything off the plate has to be done even if they are full. Again, remember to have patience, make it fun, and lead by example.
Written by: CLARICE STOUT, MA, IS A REGISTERED ASSOCIATE MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST #107743, WORKING UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF DR. KARLA HEREDIA, PSYD, LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST 92394.