I had a friend ask me the other day how to deal with her picky eater. Now, I am fortunate that this is not an issue I have to deal with. Both my boys are great eaters but I like to think it's because that's the way we trained them. But, I do have some tips for changing your picky eater. The quicker you catch it, the easier the transition.
I think the first thing you need to do is lead by example.It sounds simple enough, but you wouldn't believe how many adults I know that are picky eaters. If there is something you don't like, say in front of the child that you don't like it, and don't make faces. Try to keep a positive attitude. Make dinner a family event, not hitting the drive through between activities. Of course, in today's hustle and bustle lifestyle, that is not always a possibility but make dinner a priority, not an afterthought. Family dinners should be the norm, not the exception.
Another tip for picky eating is the one bite rule.In our house, when we are trying a new food, we have to have at least one bite. If you don't like it after that, then this time you don't have to eat it. The next time that dish is made, that one bite may turn into two. As an additional caveat to the rule, is always have something on the plate that they do like. If you know your child like raw carrots with dip, then you can make that part of the meal. But that meals everyone eats the carrots and dip. If after the carrots, and the one bite of the new food, they are still hungry I recommend offering them a "whole food". That is, something healthy and unprocessed. That could be an apple, glass of milk or yogurt... something along those lines. After all, I'm a mom, not a short-order cook. If they are still hungry after that, then I hope they like breakfast. (Yes, a little old-school) I have tried to steer away from bribery and deal making. "If you eat your peas, you can have a cookie" sort of thing. As someone who deals with a weight issue, I didn't want my kids to have food as a reward.
Getting you children involved in cooking is a good idea for many reasons. When my kids were really little, we had a toy barbeque and microwave with a big box of toy food right in the kitchen. My 5-year old still loves to play with it, and will often play restaurant or create some wonderful dish and serve it to us. At the grocery store, have your children name the different items in the produce aisle. Maybe even bring one home to try. Let them know that trying new foods is fun. As the children get older they can have more input. Let them rip up the lettuce for the salad, measure the tomato sauce or crack an egg into a bowl. Let them tell everyone what "they made for dinner".You can let them pick one part of the meal... "Sally, would you like to have peas or carrots with dinner?" Older ones can start to cook. My 7-year old will make his own scrambled eggs and flip pancake. By the time they are teenagers, full responsibility for a meal could be a weekly occurance. After all, dinner is a family event.
As parents, we are always creating habits for our kids, good and bad and this is one of them. When toddlers start "terrible-twos" some of it is a control issue. Giving your child a little age-appropreate control when it comes to food will work wonders. As with everything set expectation and follow through.
Post a comment with specific questions about picky eating and I'll do my best to help.