Updated: Mar 3
You have probably heard of or have gotten use to the phrase “picky eaters”. When it comes to children, it can be a tough battle of creating healthy eating habits. My discovery is that, once you start the process early, you can change the direction of a child's life with more healthy eating habits than so much the dreaded "picky eating" issues that sometimes arise.
My children are not picky eaters but they do have their preferences when it comes to what they like to eat. I have learned earlier on in the process one solid key and that is to expose them to a wide variety of foods to kind of open their appetites.
My kids are exposed to two different cultures of the Caribbean and African descent that are known for having flavorful and unique food groups that may differ from those in the United States. They are therefore used to eating a variety of foods from our culture and also from the US.
Based on what I have observed with them and their appetites, along with some cultural things that I have experienced in my childhood and also in my husband's culture, here are my tips and suggestions for changing your "picky eaters" or even starting the process before you get to that stage.
Please feel free to comment on our FORUM section as well. I would love to hear from you.
Remember it will take a little time and much-needed effort on your part as a parent to implement especially if it has started. However, after having these steps in place, the journey will become less of a hassle and much easier to manage.
1. OFFER A VARIETY OF MEALS
Offer a wide variety of meals. The most crucial time I think for this process is at the early introduction of foods that may start around the 6 month period. This is a great time to offer different flavors and a variety of foods to boost your baby's appetite for later on. I am not a health expert when it comes to making suggestions about foods to start with, so always make sure to check with your pediatrician. Also, try to provide a larger and wider variety of foods from different food groups. Your child may be a fan of bread and rice, but try potatoes and pasta as well. Or they may love carrots, but throw some spinach and broccoli in the mixture. My mother had a degree in dietetics and nutrition and I can remember growing up eating various different foods and dishes as she prepared them. I have grown to love the different variety of foods and meals as well and I try to prepare different things as much as I can to introduce my kids to variety. Now as an adult, my sisters and I are minimal picky eaters. So offer a wide variety of new foods all the time and keep rotating the ones they are used to with them so that they learn as they grow to get familiar with a wider selection of foods. Check out our Mommy Inspired Meal Planner that has a Free Toddler Meal Plan to get inspiration from.
2. KEEP DISTRACTIONS AWAY AND AT MINIMUM
Sometimes we may get this right and sometimes we may not. I cannot say that I haven't allowed them to watch television while eating before but based on my observation, I really dislike the idea. I know it is a popular thing to have dinner while watching the television, but based on my observation with my kids, it's a huge huge distraction. It prolongs the mealtime process and also I tend to have lots of leftover food on the plate. Whenever I allow no tv time, I get more empty plates and a quicker mealtime process. Distractions therefore really can harm a child's eating habits and cause the development of picky eaters. Being distracted does not allow the child to eat and enjoy their meals, which is what we want as moms. When there are no distractions, they are more likely to savor the foods that they are eating and discover what food is really like. This I believe will also eliminate the unhealthy food choice and introduce more interest in healthier ones.
3. PREPARE COLORFUL/ATTRACTIVE MEALS
As an adult like myself, for instance, I am drawn to colorfully prepared meals and dishes. I love the color in foods and that's what boosts my appetite for meals. Expect the same for your child. Colorful meals are an appetite opener, especially in children. Colors draw attention to the meal quicker than plain foods may do. My preference for example with rice for some reason, the yellow rice that I prepare with added saffron is more popular with my kids than plain white rice, even though it is rice. They just love the color and added flavor of the yellow rice better. Mix it up with bright orange carrots, or beans, etc. just to add that pop of color to the meal as well.