Wednesday, January 13, 2016

10 Tips on getting a Picky Eater to Eat

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There are several reasons your little bundle of joy won't eat such as being sick, distracted, tired, full, not hungry, bored of that food item, doesn't like the way it feels, or plain out just doesn't like what you are feeding him/her. If you have children you have probably gone through the constant battle of trying to get your kid to eat at some point in your child's life. From throwing their plate to plain out just refusing to eat can be very stressful on us as parents but don't give up just yet after all the kid eventually has to eat something and when they do decide to eat they are going to rely on you, the parent, to make them food. Here are a few things you can try next time your child decides they don't want to eat:

1. Keep a Routine: 

Feed your child breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner around the same time every day so they know when they can expect to eat and that it is time for food. If they refuse, let them know that they won't get anything else until the next meal time.

2. Get Them Involved

You can involve your child by letting them choose what's for dinner or what side item they want with dinner. You can also involve your child by asking them to help you make dinner. Even if it is something as simple as just adding the salt they will be proud that they helped you and be more apt to try what they helped make.

3. Change It Up

If your child isn't eating what you served, try making it appear different. You can change it up by:
       - Warm It Up: Nobody likes cold vegetables or meat.

      - Add Flavor: Ketchup, ranch, honey mustard, peanut butter, vegetable dip, fruit dip, or a pinch of salt (fake add salt so your kid thinks you did) can make a huge difference to your kids taste buds.

    - Change the Shape: Use cookie cutters or a small knife to cut sandwiches, cheese, fruit, etc... into cool shapes, animals, or characters. 

     - Change the Color: Add food coloring. Green eggs and ham anyone?

    - Mix It Together (Hide the Fruit and Vegetables):
      For Babies: If your baby won't eat the baby cereal try mixing two of them together or add a little applesauce to it. Neither of my children liked the Rice Cereal so I mixed it with Oatmeal/Multi Grain Cereal and they ate it. I've also had to mix a few of the baby vegetables with a meat or fruit to get them to eat it. The meat and fruit help mask the vegetable flavor. The benefit is they are now selling already mixed baby food.

       For toddlers and older children you can mix vegetables and meat into Omelets, Chicken Pot Pie, Stir Fry, Soup, Pizza Toppings covered by cheese, or a casserole. You can mix fruit into smoothies, cereal, homemade popsicles, trail mix, homemade granola bars, or homemade fruit rolls.

4. Try Something New: 

Try changing it up every once in a while by not feeding your child the same food over and over again; you can only have mac and cheese so many times before you get tired of it. When introducing new foods, be patient because it may take some time for your child to realize they like it since their taste buds have never had it so Try Try and Try again when introducing new foods.

5. Save the Best for Last

If your child is only eating the fruit and not the meat, vegetables, etc... try saving the fruit for last. Only give your child some vegetables and meat for their meal and tell them if they eat it then they can get fruit.

6. No Special Treatment (this does not apply to babies): 

Once your child reaches a certain age and has all their teeth then they should be able to eat almost everything we eat. Cook one meal for everybody in your family. Don't feed your child a different meal (dinner) because they will think it will always be that way and that they don't have to eat their food because they will get something else. Also by feeding them the same food as you, they will see you eating it and hopefully copy you since most kids mimic their parents.

7. Make Food Fun

This can be as simple as changing the shape or color of the food to something that takes a little more planning such as a theme night.

     - Change the Appearance: As I mentioned before you can change the shape or the color of the food to make it more appealing to your child. You can also try creating a picture with the food by making a fish out of the fruit and seaweed out of the vegetables. 

    - Theme Nights: You can go all out with decorating, costumes, and food or you can keep the theme night simple by just making all your food match that theme. Some examples for a  theme night  are: Mexican Fiesta, Mardi Gras, Hawaiian Luau, Tea Party, Make your own Pizza Party, Appetizers for Dinner, Color Food (all the food has to be the same color) or Letter Food (all the food has to start with the same letter). There are several different themes you can do, just get creative, maybe ask your kids what they would prefer.

     - Location Change: You can make meals more interesting by changing the location you eat at. Try having a Picnic in the living room, Breakfast in Bed, Grill Out in the Garage, or eating dinner under the kitchen table. 

     - Play with Food: We try to teach our children that it is wrong to play with food, but they are kids and they are going to do it anyway so why not let them... on certain occasions that is. Give them something to dip their food in such as ketchup, vegetable dip or peanut butter. They will love dipping their food and will probably play with it like it is finger paint afterward. You can also buy fun shaped food like dinosaur chicken nuggets and have your child pretend that their mouth is the dinosaur's home and they must go home. Another idea is to make a game out of it. If your child is refusing to eat their vegetables have them roll a dice and that is how many bites they have to take of that specific food.

8. Distraction

This mainly applies to babies eating baby food. Baby food is new and different and babies sometimes won't open their mouth for you to feed them. If this is the case try the "airplane" method (act like the spoon is an airplane), singing a song, or getting them to laugh will usually lead to your baby opening their mouth. Don't over distract them by talking to them a lot or playing with them because then they most likely won't eat and think it's play time. Also be carful because distracting them can lead to them choking on the food since they weren't ready it.

9. Positive Renforcement

     - Reward Your Child: You can give your child a treat if they eat all their food this way they know they are getting something they like at the end so will eat all their food. The treat doesn't have to be junk food, it can be something healthy like yogurt, real fruit gummies, or raisins.  You can also reward your child with something like 30 minutes of TV, 15 minutes on the computer, or stay up an extra 10 minutes. Rewards for eating should not happen all the time though because your child needs to learn how to eat but rewards might help if your child is going through a picky eating phase like most children tend to do from time to time.

     - PraiseApplaud your child with excitement. By telling your child "Good job, you ate all your food!" or " Yay mommy is so happy you ate your food!" they will know you are excited and most children love praise so will want to do it again to make you happy. 

10.  Stay Calm and Don't Force It

Yelling at your child and forcing them to eat will only make matters worse and make them either start crying or clamp their mouth shut and start pushing the food away causing a mess. You can't control if your child chooses to eat or not and I'm sure you did the same thing when you were their age so next time you go to yell at your child for not eating, take a deep breathe and calmly let them know that they won't get anything else until the next meal time.

Next time your child decides they want to be a picky eater try one of these 10 Tips and keep trying them, until you find one that works. Get creative, think outside the box, keep it colorful and remember to stay calm! Feel free to comment below with some things you do to get your child to eat!

***Check out another one of my blogs: Food Ideas: Feeding a One Year Old

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