One of the most common struggles of many parents is raising kids to eat a healthy diet. While we want to influence our kids to eat healthy, it’s important to understand why they are being selective about food. For one, they might be naturally sensitive to smell, taste and texture. Second, they might have been influenced by their parents’ eating habits. Or, their picky eating habits might have been developed because of how their parents reward or punish their eating behaviors. So, what really is the right way of dealing with a picky eater? 

As a parent, you have a very important role to play in getting your little one to eat healthy and enjoy it. Here are some tips you might find handy.

Respect your child’s appetite

One common mistake many parents make is force-feeding their children even when they don’t feel like eating or when they’re not hungry. Do not force a meal if your little one doesn’t want to eat. Let them follow their body and recognize when they are hungry. Otherwise, they might associate mealtime with anxiety and might start hating this part of the day all together. If they decide to eat, do not overwhelm them with big food portions. Give them just the right amount they can finish. 

Let them decide

Instead of deciding for your child, give them the freedom to choose how they want to have their food. For example, if they want to have their morning cereal with very little milk, then let them have it. Do they always want to have ketchup on top of their scrambled eggs? Or maybe hate peanut butter in their sandwich? Ask your little one what they want and let them have it. 

Be creative when introducing new food

We always think that young kids hate vegetables but that is not 100% true. In fact, there are many ways you can have your little one get addicted to eating veggies. The key? Just incorporate a little fun and creativity! Steamed vegetables can really be boring so why don’t you add a twist by roasting them and adding some spices and dip. You can also cut them into fun shapes and sizes or experiment with new kid-friendly veggie recipes. The sky’s the limit and all you have to do is try!

Get them involved

Whether it’s grocery shopping, meal preparation or cooking, getting kids involved in the food aspect of the household can encourage them to love food and eating. Give them simple meal preparation tasks like washing the vegetables, or putting them in a bowl. Not only is this a perfect bonding activity, but it also provides a good opportunity to educate your little one about the importance of healthy food choices. 

Model healthy eating

A child’s eating habits have a lot to do with how their parents model their own eating behaviors. Show an example of healthy eating by selecting healthy food choices. If they see you binging on more fruits and vegetables instead of unhealthy foodstuff, they are more likely to follow suit. Replace junk food with healthier snacks.

Don’t give up

Maybe your child has refused to eat broccoli once but it doesn’t mean that they won’t eat it the next time. Be more persistent and don’t give up. You can still turn things around and make it more fun. If you give up too fast, they won’t develop a taste for that particular food. Let them discover new food items and realize that they’re not that bad at all. Who knows, these foods might eventually become their favorite. 

Let them stick to what’s already served

There will be times when your child won’t really love what’s served on the table. However, you should never let them get used to getting a new set of meal just because they don’t like the food. If you let them make choices, make them choose from the food you have prepared for them. It’s okay to occasionally ask what they want to have for lunch and dinner but don’t always let them have the final say on what they should be eating during mealtimes. 

You may hear a lot of “I don’t like this” or “I don’t want to eat that” from your kids. But with these helpful parenting tips, you can better handle your picky eater and even teach them to embrace healthy food and enjoy mealtime. 

For more helpful tips on parenting and raising kids, or if you’re looking for the best early childhood education for your little one, please feel free to visit Cornerstone Learning Center.