Is Your Child a Picky Eater? Try This (Food)
Philly nutritionists offer ways to get your kids to eat well
Your child is a picky eater. It’s a common dilemma for parents.
Here are five methods you can use to try to remedy that, according to Philadelphia-based nutritionists Beth Auguste and Jenny Friedman. Auguste owns Be Well with Beth, which offers fitness and nutrition counseling to parents, and Friedman owns Jenny Friedman Nutrition, which focuses on helping “your child learn to comfortably try new foods,” according to its website.
Method No. 1: Put one familiar food and one challenge food on your child’s plate
With this method, kids gets to eat something they like, which may make them more willing to try the new item also on their plate, according to Auguste. It helps to try this approach with different comfort foods, but the same challenge food over and over again.
“Kids have to be exposed to foods multiple times before they like new foods,” Auguste says. “After you’re exposed to them many times, you might be more likely to eat it.”
Method No. 2: Control the staging
Let’s say your kids like orange crackers, but not cheese, Auguste says. Try to give them cheese shaped like their favorite orange crackers. Then, try giving them orange cheese.
“Change one aspect at a time. Not both,” Auguste says. “Get them comfortable.”
Method No. 3: Take it slow and appreciate the small victories
Auguste thinks that parents tend to stress a little too much when their kids are picky eaters. It’s not as big of a deal as it seems, she says, especially if the kids are at least willing to eat certain foods. For example, for a kid, one egg in the morning is enough protein to last the whole day.
This doesn’t mean you should stop worrying altogether. It just means that you don’t have to do it all at once.
“If you do too much, your kid might resist,” Auguste says. “They will eventually get what they need. All kids go through a picky stage.”
Method No. 4: No pressure
Friedman believes that one of the most traditional methods, hard requirements, is also one of the worst. In other words, telling children that they have to eat peas to get dessert is probably going to make them hate peas.
“Kids are coming to the table with anxieties,” Friedman says. “That makes it worse.”
Method No. 5: Eat as a family
When families eat together and talk about their days, they are not focusing on their food, according to Friedman. This takes kids’ focus away from a meal that they may or may not like. And if the kids are focusing on important conversations with family members, they are more likely to just eat.
“Coming to the table is not about how much we’re eating,” Friedman says. “It’s about coming together.”
The nutritionist also recommends transforming dinner time into a whole ritual involving the children. Have them serve or set the table. Implement a natural process that will help them enjoy the meal’s creation and take ownership of the end result.
This can even go as far as taking your children grocery shopping or to the farmers market, or enlisting their help with the family garden out back.
“It’s about establishing a confident relationship with food,” Friedman said. “For so many kids, food is uncomfortable and scary.”
This story first appeared in our August 2021 issue.