Nutrition and Eating

5 Ways to Avoid Raising a Picky Eater

Is your child a picky eater? If so, chances are they aren’t scoffing at junk food, but instead, the fruits and veggies.

John Markovich MD, a pediatrican at Group Health – Anderson, shares tips for instilling healthy eating habits in your child.

#1: Don’t Force Your Child to Eat

“Be patient when exposing kids to new foods. It takes about eight to 10 exposures before a kid will try something new,” Dr. Markovich says. "Don't force kids to eat. Your goal is to expose them to healthy things and let them try things in their own time, when they're hungry."

You should also remember that for young children, serving sizes are very small so even if it doesn't seem like they're eating enough, they may still be getting an appropriate serving size for their height and weight. The serving size for a 1-year-old, for example, is about one tablespoon.

#2: When Your Child Does Try New Foods, Give Praise

If you place squash, for example, in front of your child six times, and they just stare at it, don’t get frustrated. However, if he or she does try a bite, lay on the praise. 

#3: Set a Good Example

In addition, make sure you’re eating the foods you’re exposing your child to. “You can’t expect a 15- or 18-month old to eat their vegetables if you’re leaving them on the side of your plate,” Dr. Markovich points out.

#4: Don’t be a Short Order Cook for Your Child

In general, many families have a set dinner time they try to stick to, when everyone eats the same meal. Don’t make a separate meal or a second dinner later in the evening. Stick to what you’re serving, as long as it’s appropriate (meaning he or she isn't allergic to the food or isn't at risk of choking on it) and give your child a set timeframe during which he or she can eat as much of that meal as desired.

Then, make it clear that once dinner is over, the food is gone until the next snack or meal time.

#5: Involve Your Child in the Meal Prep Process

“This can be as simple as letting your child pick between vegetables or involving them in the process of watching mom and dad make foods and mix things together,” Dr. Markovich explains. “This can lead to them eating a little better and trying new foods.”

Also, involving your child in grocery shopping can help him or her be more willing to eat the foods being served during mealtime. Allow him or her to help pick out fruits or vegetables and make it clear that you’ll use these foods to prepare the next few meals.

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Tags Nutrition and Eating

Last Updated: August 13, 2015