How to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Dinner Without Being Picky
By Anita Ginsburg
Do your kids eat what they’re served or turn up their noses? Are they adventurous eaters or picky little monsters? In short: Do you struggle to get them to eat their dinner? It’s a common problem for parents. Children often go through a picky eating phase as they develop their sense of taste and figure out what they like and don’t like. It can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to feed them nutritious meals. Here are some strategies that might help. These strategies work for just about any child—even if they aren’t giving an apple a try.
Don’t Force the Issue
If your child says “no” to a food, don’t force the issue. Sometimes, the best way to get your child to try a food is to offer it again—but not force them to eat it. Once you’ve tried five or six times to get your child to eat a certain food, it’s probably time to move on. Trying to force your child to eat something when they have no interest in it will only frustrate them and make them more likely to refuse it. Once they become a little older and are more aware of what they like and don’t like, they’ll offer you their opinion.
Serve Nutritious Meals With Protein
This is the foundation of a healthy diet. Protein is important because it helps build and repair tissue—including muscles, organs, and skin. It’s also essential for growth and development in children. To get enough protein, you need to focus on meals that contain protein. Some good options include eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk, chicken, fish, beef, beans and soy, lentils, and peanut butter. These foods are some of the easiest for children to digest and provide essential protein.
Present Foods in New Ways
A lot of parents recommend trying to present foods in different ways. This can include changing the way an item is prepared, eating it with another food, or even trying to serve it in a new form. For example, if your child doesn’t want to try an apple, you could peel the apple and chop it up and serve it with yogurt and a sprinkle of nuts. Another idea is to try serving vegetables in a soup or stew. Another option is to try serving most of your meals as a casserole. Casseroles are a great way to sneak vegetables into your child’s diet without realizing it. Add vegetables to a casserole dish and some meat and pasta or rice.
Have General Fam-Dish Nights
Not every meal has to be a healthy meal. Some could argue that you shouldn’t try to make every meal healthy. You can have healthy lunches and dinners and then, once a week or once a month, load up on the carbs and treat yourself and your family to some mac and cheese. Children are more likely to accept foods in general if they’re offered a variety of foods. You don’t need to offer your child kale and spinach daily.
Try Using Food as a Reward
This doesn’t mean you reward your child with a piece of cake every time they make the honor roll. But, you can use food as a reward. If you have a child that’s really picky and doesn’t want to try new things, you could offer them food as a reward for trying a new item. For example, you could promise that if your child tries a new food each night for a week (or two weeks, or whatever you decide), you’ll take them to or order their favorite restaurant food. Some companies, like National Coney Island, know that by promising them their favorite restaurant, you accomplish two things: the potential of getting them to try new foods and giving yourself a night off from cooking.
Food is important and something we need to survive. As parents, our first priority is ensuring our children eat nutritious meals. Picky eating is pretty normal in children. But, there are ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables and other nutritious foods. You just have to be patient and not force them to eat things they don’t want. Be sure to feed them nutritious meals with protein and lots of vegetables and fruits. If you do this, your child will grow up to be healthy.
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