If your child is a picky eater, there is a good chance that he or she is also overweight, since many picky eaters only consume foods high in fat or sugar. Giving your child a whole new outlook on healthy food is all you need to ensure wholesome choices at mealtimes. How can you change your child’s food tastes without a major battle? Here are some suggestions:
1. Set a good example. If you enjoy a wide variety of foods and don’t complain about the ones you don’t like, your child is more likely to eventually follow your example. Don’t set a double standard by snacking on cookies and soda. And, don’t set your kids up for temptation by keeping unhealthy foods in your pantry or refrigerator. Stock up on whole foods that are free of processed ingredients. For example, frozen blueberries, mangoes and grapes are a great alternative to popsicles. Try using agave nectar in baked goods and on pancakes as an alternative to sugar or syrup. This tasty option has all the sweetness of sugar without a high glycemic index.
2. Introduce one new food at a time. If the food is a vegetable, prepare it in a way that makes it attractive and easy to eat. Unless your child is diabetic, a pinch of sugar added during cooking might make it taste better, especially a vegetable.
3. Turn it into a challenge. For instance, the first person at the table who finishes their broccoli gets to choose a board game for the family to play after dinner. Whatever you do don’t allow your child to eat a different meal from the rest of the family.
4. Talk about nutrition. Let your child cut out pictures of different foods from magazines or grocery ads creating a poster identifying the appropriate food groups. Ask your child to keep track of the servings from each food group daily using a sticker chart.
5. Take your child grocery shopping with you with the task of picking one new fruit, vegetable or dairy product for the family to try. Do some research on the Internet to learn about the chosen food including its dietary benefits.
6. Try serving foods in different ways. If your child hates cooked carrots, serve raw baby carrots dipped in ranch dressing. Serve celery stuffed with peanut butter as a snack. Disguise a food your child dislikes in a favorite food. For example, try making “mashed potatoes” using cauliflower or broccoli instead of actual potatoes.
7. Teach your child to cook. Children usually love helping in the kitchen, especially if it means more one-on-one time with you. Make it a rule that whoever cooks the food must try a few bites of anything that is prepared, then YOU select the food to be prepared.
8. Tell your child (as often as necessary) that you are concerned about his or her dietary choices. Make it known that you are doing this out of love and desire for a healthy child. Emphasize the importance of a healthy diet and how it helps in the ability to perform well at sports and do well in school. How can anyone argue with that?
To learn more ways about coping with a picky eater, check out books titled Winning the Food Fight by Dr. Joey Shulman and Conquering Childhood Obesity for Dummies by Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD,LD; Meghan Beecher, and Michelle Hagen at www.grandmashealthykidsclub.com/books.html.