Dealing with picky eaters can send even the most zen parent running for the hills. Between the mood swings, the changing tastes and the general whining at the table, kids can really put us to the test. Luckily, here are 6 great parenting tips on dealing with picky eaters for all parents in the #Nonitribe to practice:
1. Don’t buy into the comparison game
As a mom or dad of a first grader, it’s not uncommon to hear your kids commenting about what other kids are eating at school (or in the case of homeschoolers, what other friends brought to a play date or the park). For most kids, first grade is the first time they experience eating their lunch and breakfast away from home. Kids – of course, being kids – will always take notice of what other parents feed their kids in the cafeteria and at snack time. It’s important to teach your child that you’ve chosen to feed him or her healthier options, and what is OK for friends to eat is not necessarily OK for your kid to eat.
2. Healthy shopping made easy
As a general rule of thumb, stick to the outer aisles at the grocery store. Typically, the healthiest options for your growing kids are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. that are culprits of child obesity and growing health concerns among kids today. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles altogether will keep your child from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart.
3. They’ll want to be a part of the group
Have your family members and friends serve as role models for healthy eating. Younger children often idolize older people such as a parent, aunt or uncle, older cousin, or friend. One way to motivate your child to eat better is to say that if he or she wants to grow big and strong like his or her role model, it’s important to eat healthy foods.
4. Choosing your words wisely
Try to use words such as strong or weak, fast or slow, or healthy or unhealthy, instead of words like fat, obese, or chunky when talking about nutrition with your child. Try explaining to your child that “eating your vegetables will make you grow up strong,” and “eating too much candy will slow you down and make your body weak.” A sense of body image starts to develop around age 6, and focusing on what the food does to their body will help promote a healthy ideal instead of putting an overemphasis on weight.
5. Time for eating, not playing
Focus on eating as a family without technology distractions. This means no texting, no TV, no technology. Meals are a great time to connect as a family, and keeping distractions at bay allows your child to learn to listen to his or her body and know when he or she is full.
6. Share the task with your little helper
First graders love to help – take advantage of that by asking your child to get involved with picking out vegetables and fruits at the grocery store, helping in meal preparation, setting the table, and putting the food on plates. Getting him or her involved in all steps of the process is great for developing your child’s interest in healthy foods.