You thought your kids would love everything. They devoured everything in sight as a baby, so excited to try out the latest delectable delight. Now that they’re a bit older, you may have entered the “kid phase” of dining. Your plate of grilled chicken and broccoli no longer looks appealing. Instead, you live in an era that centers around the children’s favorites and nothing else, usually a rotating menu of chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pizza with the request for maybe fruit and crackers.
Don’t despair. It’s pretty standard, albeit quite frustrating. In a Harvard Health Blog, pediatrician Claire McCarthy discusses the common practice of kids rebelling against their eating habits. She notes that it’s a matter of independence for some, asserting themselves in one of the few avenues they have. For others, it’s a matter of developing tastes or sensory comfort. So, what can you do? The following are some tips of advice for parents of picky eaters.
1. Reduce Snacks Between Meals
Some kids may not feel as hungry at mealtimes if they’ve filled up with snacks and drinks throughout the day. This decreased hunger makes dinner less appealing and necessary, leading them to eat less or ask for something else. In other words, if they’re truly hungry, they might snack on that bit of steak or broccoli before asking for cheese sticks.
Remember that nutrition by age varies, so understand what works best for your kiddos, sneaking in selections that fill in those needs. Keep to a schedule, thinking about how much they eat. Give a snack time, but remind older kids of 7 to 9 that they need to wait for dinner.
2. Don’t Fight at the Table
There was a period when parents felt they should have a standoff at the table. Common on. Did you have a parent hover over you and tell you to finish that plate? Those words may still resonate with you today: Eat it, or you have to go to your room. This tactic probably didn’t make you love the meal at all. Perhaps you ate it begrudgingly, but it didn’t change your tastebuds or desires. Instead, it may have left a bitter taste in your mouth.
So, counter this approach with one of enjoyment and cheer. When you have a meal, sit down together, making it a pleasant experience. Put the food on the plate, and begin a conversation about the day. Make the kids laugh and get them to feel the table is a comfortable social spot. In time, they may take a bite without even realizing it, captivated by the stories and smiles.
3. Try One New Delight at a Time
Don’t overwhelm children with a plate that isn’t familiar. Create a balance between what you want them to eat and what they want. Are meatballs a current phase? Go with it. Consider picking one new side next to it, like a piece of fruit or veggie. Encourage them to take a bite or two and see what it’s like. The first couple of times could be a bust. Some kids may need up to 10 times to adjust to the flavor or texture.
What does that mean for you? Have some patience!
4. Get Them in the Kitchen
The standoff may happen because kids want to assert themselves. The food needs to become their choice. You may swing their vote to your side by giving them time in the kitchen and letting them play with food. Find some children’s cookbooks. Let them look through it and pick something out. They may find it fun to experiment and learn about the different selections. When it hits the table, it’s their meal and their time to enjoy an accomplishment.
Rest assured, you are not the only parent tired of heating the same three foods throughout the week. Kids may fight you on your choices. It’s normal. You can take steps, though, to turn them to your side. Go slow, and be positive, making dinner time enjoyable.