Many a parent understands the problems posed by picky eaters. Dinner table confrontations over vegetables can try parents’ patience, and kids busy refusing to eat their broccoli may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow up healthy and strong. Recognizing that parents sometimes face an uphill battle when confronted with picky eaters, the American Heart Association offers the following tips.
Let kids pitch in on prep. The AHA recommends allowing picky eaters to help shop for groceries and prepare meals. Youngsters who pitch in may be more invested in their meals and therefore more likely to eat them.
Steer clear of unhealthy foods. Kids imitate their parents’ behaviors, and that extends to the foods mom and dad eat. Parents who set bad examples by eating unhealthy meals and snacks may find it especially difficult to convince youngsters to forgo pizza and potato chips in favor of healthy fare. In addition, kids can’t sneak unhealthy snacks if such snacks are nowhere to be found. Avoid sugary drinks, such as soda, in favor of water or 100 percent juice as well.
Stick to a snack schedule. The AHA advises that many kids like routine and will grow accustomed to eating at certain times. When parents and kids stick to a snack schedule, the AHA suggests kids are likely to eat what they’re given. Choose healthy snacks, ideally incorporating two food groups.
Add healthy foods to dishes kids already like. Another way to get picky eaters to embrace healthy foods is to introduce such foods into dishes kids already like. For example, add antioxidant-rich blueberries to pancakes. Kids might like that extra burst of flavor, and parents can rest easy knowing kids are eating something healthy.
Don’t be afraid to serve the occasional bowl of ice cream or brownie. When eaten in moderation, foods that are not often associated with nutrition, such as ice cream and baked goods, don’t pose much of a threat. In addition, if kids’ diets never include such indulgences, the AHA notes that youngsters are more likely to overindulge when they do get their hands on forbidden foods, such as at birthday parties or other special events.