Picky eaters are often times a parent’s worst friend. Picky eaters are exhausting and frustrating, but what is a tired parent to do? Sometimes dinner just needs to get on the table. And sometimes, we make it easier by just serving the food we know they will eat. But, is that really helping you or hurting you in the long run? Take a moment to take stock of what habits you might be allowing that can lead to a picky eater.
- Are mealtimes at predictable times each day? Parents, children thrive on routines. They excel when they know what is expected of them. This includes eating. How are you doing at providing a predictable mealtime for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time? If you have let the mealtime routine slack a bit, it is time to tighten it.
- Speaking of snack time, how many snacks are you providing each day? Does your child have a snack between every meal, or just once a day? Perhaps, snacking has taken over any semblance of mealtime altogether. Parents, if snacking is excessive, it is no wonder Junior is not interested in eating what you have prepared. Have a snack, but do not let snacking replace meals.
- And just what kinds of snacks is Junior eating anyway? Let’s face it. We all love sugar because it tastes amazing! But sugar is not going to do it. Save the sugar snacks for special occasions, once-in-awhile treats, and when life throws you a curve ball. Junior will be far more interested in real food when he is not in a sugar coma all day.
- What kinds of real food are your serving? Do you only cater your meals to accommodate a kid-friendly palate of hotdogs and mac & cheese? Oh, there is nothing wrong with kid-friendly food, but there should be variety. Junior should not be running your kitchen, unless Junior is doing the cooking. Variety is interesting and teaches your children to learn to eat even when the menu is not comprised of their favorite foods.
- Let’s not forget juice and other sugary drinks. Really, anything other than water should be an occasional offering. Liquids can fill you up just as quickly as food. Why do you think dietitians suggest drinking a glass of water before you eat? If Junior enjoys juice, and dare I even say soda, on a daily basis, it is really not surprising that his interest in eating food is lacking. Save the special drinks for special occasions. Hmm, come to think of it, that is pretty good advice for adults too.
After you have taken stock of these 5 simple reminders, give yourself a grade. How are you doing? Are you the A+ parent, who always seems to offer only healthful snacks, organic meals, and filtered water? No, seriously, are you? While that might be the ideal for all of us, reality is such that is probably not true. It is okay. You do not have to be the A+ parent. But, if you took stock and gave yourself an F, you might want to try implementing some of the above suggestions. While there is no guarantee that following any of these suggestions will prevent a picky eater, there is every guarantee that not following these suggestions will leave you just as tired and frustrated as when you started.