Guest Author: Leia Flure, MS, RD, LDN Extension Outreach Associate, University of Illinois Extension
For many families, meal and snack times can be a challenge. Whether you have a picky eater or just don’t have enough hours in the day, here are some ideas that can help you to make these times more enjoyable for the whole family.
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen can teach them important life skills. It can also encourage them to try new foods. A great place to start is having them help you plan meals.
Guided Choices. Allow your child to help decide what’s for dinner. This could be letting them choose between carrots or broccoli for the dinner’s vegetable or letting them choose between pizza or tacos for the main dish.
Make Dinner a Theme Night. Try having a “theme” for dinner. It could be based on your child’s favorite book, a cuisine that your family likes, or even your child’s favorite color! This can make mealtimes more fun for the whole family.
Be a Shopping Helper. Another way to get kids involved is to have them help you with grocery shopping. They can help you write a grocery list or help you gather what you need at the grocery store.
Feeding Your Picky Eater
It can be frustrating to feed your picky eater! It is common to feel like nothing you try can work, no matter how hard you try. If you’re stuck in a rut with your picky eater, here are some guidelines to help. Remember, every kid is different, so not all of these tips will work for everyone.
Make Meal Times Pleasant. Turn off televisions and tablets to reduce distractions. Bonus points if you want to set a calming mood for the meal with relaxing music or even just a calm conversation.
Continue to Offer Foods (Even If They Did Not Like It the First Time)! Try preparing them in a variety of ways, including hot and cold, raw and cooked, and with different preparations.
Eat the Way You Want Your Child to Eat. Children pick up on how others around them eat, and often, will try to eat similarly.
Be Patient and Positive. With many children, picky eating can be a phase.
Make Sure There is a “Safe Food” at the Table. If you are making a new vegetable or protein, try and offer something else that you know they will eat.
Let Them Develop Their Natural Hunger and Fullness Cues. If they are not hungry for a meal, save them a portion and keep it in the fridge for later.