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Feeding Kids Without FUSS

Feeding Kids Without FUSS

Sarah Whitson, BS, RD

Here’s the scene: you get home from a long day of work, and spend an hour lovingly preparing a well-balanced meal for your family. You place the plates in front of your kids, and to your horror, you’re met with protests: “I don’t want that!” “I don’t like that!” “I want chicken nuggets instead!” Try some of these tips to prevent and correct picky eating in your house!

  • Know Your Role! Kids are really great at self-regulating – much better than adults are! As hard as it can be to not micromanage every bite they take during a meal, it’s really not our job as parents. Our job is to prepare a well-balanced, healthy meal and offer it to our kids. Once we put the plate down in front of them, our job is done. Then it is up to them to decide what, if anything, they will eat. They may only eat one item off their plate, but we did our job in offering everything and maybe at the next meal they might eat more.
  • Exposure! It can take up to 20 times of kids trying a food for them to actually like that food. Repeated exposure to new foods makes kids more likely to try a food – and like it! This can also change from day to day – one day they may love something and the next day they may hate it. So keep putting the new foods on their plate and eventually it just may become a favorite!
  • Safe Foods! While trying new foods is great, kids are more comfortable with foods they know. It is ok to include a “safe food” that you know they’ll eat, along with whatever else you have prepared. In our house, that is usually a favorite fruit.
  • Give up the Grazing! Meals and snacks should be part of a schedule and routine. Healthy snacks are a great way to boost nutrition and get some extra things that might be lacking from the main meals, but if kids are snacking right before a meal, they probably won’t eat much of that meal! Try to create a schedule for meals and snacks that spaces them out a few hours apart so kids are nice and hungry when it comes to meal time.
  • Let’s Get Cooking! Getting your kids involved in preparing the meals makes them more likely to actually eat the meal! Find age-appropriate tasks for them to do (under supervision, of course!) and don’t be afraid to let them taste the food during the process! Sometimes the low-pressure atmosphere of the kitchen allows them to try things they might not otherwise try when it is served on their plate.
  • Play it Cool! Try not to mention anything about the food while your child is eating. They didn’t take a single bite of the casserole you made? No worries! They finally tried broccoli for the first time? Do a happy-dance on the inside, but keep your poker face! The less pressure and reaction around food, the better.

Creating well-rounded eaters is one of the best things we can do for our kids, but it can also be tough. Remember that these changes don’t happen overnight, and some days will be better than others. If you can keep up some of these tips most of the time, it usually will eventually pay off. However, if you feel that your child’s picky eating is becoming extreme, bring your concerns up with their pediatrician for further help and guidance. Below are some additional resources and recipes to help!