4 Tips for Dealing With Picky Eaters

Boy being a picky eaterKids need to learn good eating habits so they can get all of the nutrients they need to grow up happy and healthy. However, getting children to enjoy chowing down on nutritious food is easier said than done. Lots of kids resist certain kinds of food (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other vegetables) and scream for ice cream (or chicken nuggets and French fries) at the dinner table instead.

If your child is a picky eater and has waged a war on vegetables, you’re facing a common problem for parents. About 20 percent of parents classify their 2- to 5-year-olds as picky eaters, according to WebMD.

Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to negotiate with stubborn kids demanding tater tots for dinner for the fifth night in a row. Here are a few quick tips for dealing with a picky eater.

1. Try to find a middle ground. While it’s not a good idea to cook special dinners every night for your child, you can find ways to incorporate their favorites into healthy meals and snacks, KidsHealth advises. For example, if you know your daughter likes peanut butter, you can make sure she gets fruits and veggies by putting it on celery and apples.

Additionally, if your child refuses to eat their dinner, try to reach a compromise. Ask them to eat just two or three bites of what you’ve made before letting them eat something else.

2. Get your kids involved in the meal planning process. Letting children have a say in what you make for dinner can up the odds that they won’t turn their noses up at their plates. Try asking them which fruits and vegetables they’re willing to try, KidsHealth states. Maybe they gag at just the thought of asparagus but aren’t opposed to carrots and cucumbers. You can also invite them to go grocery shopping with you and ask them to help you cook.

3. Be persistent and explore different recipes. Research has suggested that children might need to encounter a type of food five to 10 times before they warm up to it, WebMD states. So, if there’s a particular type of food they hate (e.g., cauliflower), try serving it multiple times in different forms. Put it in a soup or salad and/or mix it with foods your child does like.

4. In extreme cases, rule out sensory processing issues. Children who refuse to eat more than 10 foods and have a lot of difficulty trying new things might not just be picky eaters but “problem eaters,” according to Food & Nutrition Magazine. Parents of problem eaters should know that these food difficulties might be a sign of sensory processing issues.

Some kids have trouble handling sensory input, which can affect their day-to-day functioning. In addition to being problem eaters, they might show other warning signs such as fear of crowds, extreme reactions to loud noises and bright lights, and finding clothing irritating.

If you think your child might have sensory processing issues, our pediatric occupational therapists can help. Occupational therapists focus on helping children become more independent in all areas of life. To learn more about our pediatric therapy services, contact us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.           

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