Parents can help kids overcome picky eating by cultivating good eating habits early on. A recent study showed that picky children often have highly sensitive taste buds with heightened perception of bitterness, which result in avoidance of healthy vegetables and a preference for salty and fatty foods.
Unhealthy eating habits, in turn, may increase the risk of obesity and cancer. According to research author Dr. Virginia Utermohlen, picky eaters are also likely to develop low self-esteem.
Luckily, you can help improve your child’s eating habits and encourage him to eat delicious yet tasty foods. Here are some tips to wean picky eaters from their poor eating habits:
1. Don’t force your child to eat. Let your kids eat only when they’re hungry. If they don’t feel like eating, don’t force them to eat a meal or even a snack. Ensure that meal times are associated with positive memories. You’ll soon see that your child will eventually eat without much prodding.
2. Serve meals and snacks regularly. Train kids to eat their meals at regular, scheduled intervals. It’s best to let your child come to the table with an empty stomach so that he’ll be more motivated to eat. As much as possible, avoid giving your child snacks an hour before meals.
3. Make meal times more enjoyable. Make sure the TV is off, and avoid distractions such as gadgets and complex toys during meals. To create a happy mood, dish up your usual vegetables with your kids’ favorite dip or sauce. Try pairing steamed broccoli and melted cheese. You may also buy alphabet-shaped food items, or even let them design their plates with happy faces using vegetables to pique their interest in eating new and healthy foods.
4. Encourage your child to help in the kitchen. Engage your child in preparing healthy meals. Start by asking him to select fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods at the grocery store. In the kitchen, let him help rinse fruits, peel vegetables with kid-safe utensils, whisk mixtures, or place items in the fridge.