Just Two More Bites: Picky Eater Strategies

“Ew! Is there chicken in my chicken nugget??”

“…yes?”

“But Mommy always takes the chicken out of my chicken nugget!”

This was an interaction my sister had while babysitting our little neighbors years ago. Bewildered, she took the plate back into the kitchen, pretended to remove all the chicken, and returned the “chicken-free” chicken nuggets to three satisfied, blissfully unaware toddlers. (Spoiler alert: their mom didn’t actually remove the chicken.)

Every child goes through a picky eating phase, but don’t get discouraged! It won’t last forever. With these strategies below, you can help your child broaden their horizons and get a little bit braver when trying new things.

  1. Set a good example by prioritizing your own healthy diet.
  2. Prepare meals together with your child by asking them to assist with measuring, pouring, or stirring. They might be more receptive to trying something when they’ve made it themselves and know what’s in it.
  3. Avoid showing disgust or disinterest in trying new foods. Remember, your children are watching your reactions!
  4. Offer several healthy food choices at each meal, and make sure to include them in your own servings.
  5. Gently and frequently offer new kinds of foods.
  6. Track food sensitivities (such as a dislike for certain textures) and offer other options. For example, instead of “mushy” applesauce, offer them apple slices instead.
  7. Pair new foods with old favorites your child loves. For example, if your child loves cheese but hates to eat green vegetables, introduce them to cheesy broccoli or brussel sprouts.
  8. Make sure your child is served the same thing as everyone else at the table, but ensure there is at least one food on their plate that they already like.
  9. Offer safe “finger foods” that your child can feed themselves.

With these helpful tips, you can start to expand your picky eater’s diet without making them feel forced to eat things they don’t want. Remember to continually offer new foods; it can take up to 10-15 times of offering before your child actually agrees to try a new food. Don’t give up!

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