In this post, we are discussing how to get your picky eater to eat healthy – whether that’s your toddler, preschooler or your husband! I share my favorite methods for encouraging my picky eaters to eat healthy foods.
Hey there, friend. You’re probably reading this because you want to know how to help your child to eat better, healthier, and more consistently.
First of all let me say that I am NOT a medical professional or dietitian. I’m just a regular ole mom like you who has struggled with the same things. This is what I’ve learned through experience, tons of research and consulting with doctors, nutritionists and registered dietitians. If you or your child has a health issue, please consult with your doctor.
Dr. Justin Coulson at Happy Families – a psychologist and father of 6 (!!) daughters – remarks that some of the most common mealtime mistakes are:
- Applying too much pressure
- Giving too much choice
- Using shame and guilt
So, what do you do when you fall into some of those pitfalls? I know I have done ALL of those things at one point or another.
Tip #1: Take a deep breath.
Seriously. Take a deep breath. I’ll wait.
Now, hear this: your kid will be okay. They will not starve. They will not grow a third ear because they refuse to eat their broccoli. Let’s have some perspective on this.
One thing my doctor mom would always say: eating is not a learned behavior.
We are not taught to eat, it is something that we are biologically programmed to do. Yes, we learn bad behaviors and unhealthy habits – but starving ourselves is not typically one of those!
Recently, we realized that dinnertime had become a struggle for us with the kids. They just weren’t eating their food! We bribed them, cajoled them, throttled them (just kidding)…after weeks, we decided that they simply were not hungry at that time. So we adjusted their snack schedule and then finally made the decision that they did have to sit with us during family dinner, but they didn’t have to eat at that exact time. However, they couldn’t choose to eat something else: they had to eat a reasonable amount of dinner if/when they wanted a bedtime snack or treat.
I can’t tell you what a stress reliever this has been for our family. We’re able to have fun, light-hearted meals without battling over food. The kids still eat their dinners – albeit, later than we would like – but they eat when they’re hungry and oftentimes they eat ALL of their dinner and more!
This all started with us taking a deep breath and gaining some perspective. What mattered was that our children ate and that they ate reasonably healthy, filling foods. It doesn’t HAVE to be on “our” schedule and it may not look like what we want it to, but we’re accomplishing our goal: happy, healthy children.
Tip #2: Don’t bring food into the house that you don’t want your child to eat.
If your kid only wants to have hot dogs and macaroni for dinner and cocoa puffs for breakfast – just don’t buy it anymore. If they fill up on Doritos and Chewy bars all afternoon long and then aren’t hungry for dinner – there’s a simple fix for that.
Look, I’m not saying this is easy to do…but I am saying it’s simple.
We recently stopped purchasing applesauce pouches – not because they were unhealthy, but because that was the only thing my son wanted to eat! We were spending more money on pouches than on any other category of food each week. So, I stopped buying them.
Now, let me tell you that at first he was devastated. It broke my heart. But, as kids do, he moved on. He doesn’t even ask for them anymore and is perfectly happy with the other snack choices that we offer him.