Thanks to guest author Aradhana Pandey for contributing this post!
There’s no bigger struggle for a mother than feeding her child food that he doesn’t enjoy. No matter how far you run after your little one with a bowl of wholesome salad, he’ll always dodge you with his standard “I’m not hungry now” retort.
As soon as you replace that bowl of greens with a bag of fries, his hunger magically comes back!
In a desperate attempt to satiate your child’s daily calorie requirement, you often tend to sacrifice nutritional value for delight quotient. While this strategy may help your child gobble down his meals with ease, it can also deprive him of many essential nutrients.
What’s the ideal way is to strike the right balance between good nutrition and delectable flavor? Here are 7 simple tips that can help you get your fussy eater to eat healthy.
7 Simple Tips to Get Your Fussy Eater to Eat Healthy
1. Introduce Interesting Variations to “Boring” Health Foods
Instead of losing your temper trying to force your picky eater to quietly finish his veggie sandwich, try introducing fun variations to his meals that won’t make him create a fuss in the first place.
Add yummy sauces and seasonings to his bean wrap or make funny faces with herbs and vegetables on his tomato soup (or serve up some nutritious teddy bear toast or a green smoothie for toddlers!). Add a lot of vibrant foods to his meals and try out different recipes that include a mix of his favorite foods along with some healthy additions.
In other words, give him a taste of the best of both worlds!
2. Feed Your Child Healthy and Yummy Snacks
If your child finds it difficult to enjoy large portions in one sitting, try breaking his meals into smaller, more manageable portions. You could give your child foods like fruit smoothies, whole fruits, nuts and yogurt as snacks in between his meals.
Include a refreshing variety of healthy snacks each day so that your child doesn’t get bored of them easily. Healthy snacks will keep your child fuller and you stress free throughout the day.
3. Involve Your Child in Food Shopping and Cooking
Isn’t your child always proud of the foods and characters he makes out of playdough? And why wouldn’t he be? They’re his own creations!
One of the best ways to prevent the defiant behavior of your child when it comes to food is by involving him in everything from shopping for food to cooking a meal.
Next time you’re headed out grocery shopping, take your child along and ask him to pick out the veggies, fruits and other foods of his choice. When preparing a meal for him, involve him in little tasks like fetching water or handing over vegetables.
Doing this will give your child a sense of awareness, worth, and responsibility. It will also make him eat better!
4. Offer a Yummy Treat or Surprise After a Healthy Meal
Kids love little surprises. A delicious dessert or a fun surprise is often inspiration enough for him to eat his meals without creating a ruckus.
Tell your child you have a (small) sweet treat for him after he eats his meal properly, or offer to play his favorite game along with him only when he’s finished eating. It’s great motivation for your child to gobble up his healthy fare.
5. Set Strict Mealtime Routines
If your family practices the drill of having all meals in front of the TV at odd hours, it’s high time you change that habit.
Make sure you have a set mealtime routine for yourself and your child. This will bring about discipline and also help your child eat his meals without any distractions.
You can’t expect your child to concentrate on food while watching his favorite superhero save the world, can you?
6. Practice What You Preach
Believe it or not, your actions influence your child’s habits on many levels.
If you often skip your meals or have erratic eating habits, don’t be surprised to see your child following in your footsteps. He will always have the but-you-don’t-do-it-either argument ready to answer your questions about him not finishing his bowl of cereal.
Set an example for your child to follow by practicing healthy eating habits yourself.
7. Don’t Force Food Down
When you force your child to clean up every morsel of food on his plate, you’re unconsciously reinforcing his fussy food habits. Using force can end up making him feel anxious and dreading the thought of mealtime.
A better strategy? Feed him small portions and refill his plate only when he asks for it.
Though it’s important to introduce foods your child will enjoy in his diet, it’s also important to ensure that you include all the major food groups in his meals. If it helps, write out a comprehensive meal plan every Sunday for the whole week—including one day for special indulgences—and then use these tips for getting those vital nutrients into your little guy’s system.
Do you have a fussy eater? What strategies have worked for you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aradhana Pandey is a veteran writer on topics concerning parenting, child nutrition, wellness, health and lifestyle. As a regular contributor to popular sites like natural news, elephant journal, thehealthsite, naturally savvy, curejoy and MomJunction.com, Aradhana aims to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress free lifestyle.
11 responses to “7 Simple Tips to Get Your Fussy Eater to Eat Healthy”
My son can be picky because he doesn’t like meat and only wants to eat white carbs – white bread, pasta, rice, pizza, etc. I do all these things and it helps. I am sure he will eventually become a vegetarian. I have to keep reminding myself that we set a good example and they know what’s healthy. They will grow up to be health conscious adults.
I need to show my husband that last one. Because he’ll force kids to clean up their plate or try something new. I’ve been asking them to just try it and if they do that’s great! They’ve been finding that the food I’m giving them is actually delicious once they try it!
My son is picky sometimes and we have a few things that we’ve done to help him out. First we bought a bunch of plates with Ninja Turtles on them so that as he eats he can see their faces appear. When he is being really picky his dad will pretend to eat his food and that will always get his interest back. Also we try to give him three different little things, for instance if we are having pasta we will give him a little pasta, a cheese stick, and some little orange slices. I think the variety helps keep his attention.
My youngest son was a very picky eater. I got him involved in shopping and cooking at an early age and it helped some. I am also a very picky eater because I have texture issues with many foods, especially fruits and veggies, so I didn’t push him too much. As an adult he has a wide array of foods that he likes.
All good comments, especially not forcing food. Kids need time to acquire taste and taking them shopping. I used to have twins weigh produce.
These are great suggestions. My son has a certain level of picky-ness (especially the “I’m not hungry” when healthy food is offered, then begging for snacks later. Argh.) but I’ve seen a LOT worse. I know some kids are naturally more picky but everything parents can do to help expose them to more foods can only help.
I’ve also found dip to be a fairly magical concept. I love salads but I was getting frustrated bc my son wouldn’t eat them (so I wasn’t making them as much). I’m not a huge ranch dressing fan, but these days I give him an assortment of salad toppings with some ranch for dipping and he usually eats them pretty well. He also loves hummus and guacamole on veggies.
Those are really good ideas, Katie!! 🙂
They say you have to feed your child something up to 7 times to find out if they really like something or not, but man is that hard tryingt o get kids to eat something they didn’t like last time.
My youngest is very picky, but I’ve given up on trying to please him at meal times. There are days that he likes certain things and days that he won’t eat things he loved the day before. I serve him very small amounts of what we’re eating and he’s welcome to make himself a PBJ if he doesn’t want that. There are days where I”d really like him to try something and then I’ll offer him a choice of funny utensils to eat with (ice cream scoop, salad tongs, measuring spoons, etc.). I can usually get one taste in him like that!
Great tips! We all should eat healthier! Thanks for linking at Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party!
Great tips for mothers! I usually go shopping and cooking with my fussy eater. She always enjoys doing it and I think I’ve got good result!