Written by Michelle Meadors, Dietetic Intern, Purdue University Coordinated Program in Dietetics
The American Dietetic Association sets guidelines that encourage American's to fill their plate with a certain number of grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy. However, it may seem that if you have a picky child on your hands, this is next to impossible. Here are a few tips to get your child to try something they normally wouldn't:
Include children in the planning, shopping, and preparation of meals. This will give the child a sense of pride in what they have helped to make. After the child sees how much time and effort has gone in to the meal, they might be more likely to try it. Give the child a role, even if it's as simple as giving the child options of different meals to prepare and letting them decide what to make.
Parents need to model the behavior they want their child to exhibit. If the child sees Mom or Dad turning up their nose at the food, they will do the same. It is important that parents put a smile on their face and eat a few bites of the food to show their children that it's good to try new foods, even if the parent hates that food.
Develop a system to encourage adventuring to new foods. This might be as simple as giving the children the challenge of trying one bite of something new each meal, and for each new food the children try, the child will receive a point. Then come up with small prizes for a certain number of points. Remember to never reward children with unhealthy snacks, such as cookies or ice cream.
It is important to eat meals as a family to see results. Family meals give children a sense of security, where they might be likely to try something out of the ordinary if they are in the comfort of their own home, with people they love. Also, at mealtime, keep conversation light and the atmosphere fun, so children won't feel like mealtime with their family is torture.