Sunday, September 30, 2012

12 Golden Rules for Tackling Picky Eaters

Ok, so these are our 12 Golden Rules. The things we know work, absolutely and without a doubt. It takes time and effort, that is for sure, and it may seem extensive (it kind of is) but it's easier to apply these rules than it is to have a picky eater for the next 18 years.
You are probably naturally implementing a bunch of these rules in your home as it is. And sometimes you won't be able to apply all 12 ALL THE TIME. Totally cool. Just knowing where to begin is all you need. Start by starting!

1. Model good behavior. Kids are more likely to eat the type of foods you are eating. If you are adventurous with food, they are more likely to mimic that behavior.

2. "No thank you bite," you don't have to eat it but you have to try it. It pays in the long run to be focused on the effort made in trying something new. Give them incentive to try again later. It can take a child 7-12 times before they acquire the taste, but once they do it will feel like you won the super bowl.

3. Keep meals fun and free of anxiety. This can be a really difficult one for us parents. Tell stories, ask them about their day, sing songs, create meal time traditions and most of all be present with your little ones. This will create a lifetime of childhood memories and a real love of food. When a power struggle is created around meal times a negative association with food can develop.

4. Repetition is KEY. This is one of the most important rules. If you want your child to acquire the taste of a new food, try, try, try again! (In small, unthreatening portions, free of anxiety); persistence and patience is vital and pays off, often just when you think of giving up.

5. Talk about the food, how it tastes, smells, feels. Use all five senses. Create a curious and joyous sensory experience.

6. Try the same ingredients in different preparations. Broil, sauté, grill, bake, steam, mash, puree, dice, you get the idea. Changing the preparation transforms the texture and flavor. A chewy, sweet oven roasted tomato tastes different than a juicy, seedy raw tomato. Which textures do your kids like? In order to find out there often has to be culinary exploration.

7. Teach your kids to fill up on healthy stuff. Avoid the habit of serving unhealthy snacks after an unfinished meal (or before).

8. Teach them to listen to their bodies. Urging little ones to clean their plates is so tempting. We want them to have full bellies and panic often ensues if we think they haven't had enough. This is normal for us parents. But by letting them stop when they're done we teach them to listen to their bodies which prevents over eating in the long run.

9. Water and milk are the best options for kids - everything else in moderation. Juice is full of sugar and for picky eaters this often satisfies their appetite before meals and derails your attempts to keep them well nourished.

10. Cook together! Dub your child 'Kitchen Helper.' Children are more likely to try foods that they've had a hand in making.

11. Fresh non-processed ingredients are best. Junk food and processed foods have preservatives that are highly addictive and cause type 2 diabetes. Even if your child is picky and thin, it can be easy to assume that these processed foods won't have a long term affect. Food preferences begin early in life. Breaking this processed food addiction can be very difficult. It's not enough to have their bodies filled with food, these bodies need to be filled with nourishment. We know that fresh ingredients aren't as inexpensive and that being on a budget is tough. Use frozen foods and buy in bulk when possible. All processed and junk foods should be limited and used in moderation.

12. Not a punishment nor a prize. "If you eat all your broccoli, I'll give you ice cream." We've ALL used this trick. It's a hard one to pass up. Recent scientific studies have shown that rewarding children this way will zap their motivation to maintain those healthy choices in the long run. Plus, this method teaches kids that some foods are good (ice cream) and some foods are bad (broccoli). We're not saying to not give your kids ice cream, we're saying avoid the bribes.

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