Picky Eater

By: Johnny Johnson

“I don’t like that?” “I don’t want to eat that.” For parents and caregivers, the struggle of dealing with a picky eater is real. If you’ve ever found yourself negotiating with a child to just try one very tiny bite of broccoli, you know. The problem with picky eaters is they can miss out on important nutrients found in foods on the so called “I-Don’t-Eat” list. And, according to the American Heart Association, foods like green vegetables, fruit, skinless poultry and fish, beans, legumes, and nuts, low-fat dairy and whole grains are important for a healthy well-balanced diet.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted all your efforts and want to throw in the towel, don’t give up quite yet. Here are 5 tips to help you deal with even the pickiest eater:

No Short-Order Cooking

Plan meals to include at least one thing that everyone likes and serve one meal for everyone in the family; and try to avoid bending the rules. Preparing different foods for everyone is exhausting and it can take much longer for children to learn to like new foods.
Remember It Takes Eleven Tries to Accept Something

Research has shown it sometimes takes eleven tries for a child to decide if they like a new food. So, keep serving broccoli – and even allow a child to touch it or play with it to learn about how it might feel in their mouth. Always request that they take one bite.

No Clean Plate Club

Help kids focus on eating until they are full rather than finishing every last bite on their plate. Sometimes adults forget that small children have small bellies; a good rule to remember is: one tablespoon of food per age of the child for each dish (about 2 or 3 dishes). So a three-year-old child should receive three tablespoons each of peas, noodles and chicken.

Shop and Cook with the Kids

Kids are more likely to taste a dish if they helped plan or prepare it. Letting kids choose veggies in the supermarket produce section or even in the frozen food aisle will empower them. Involve them with age-appropriate tasks such as in stirring, chopping or measuring ingredients; this will allow them to contribute to a project in which they are proud to share and eat!

Serve Smart Snacks

One of the very best ways to get kids accustomed to eating fruits and veggies is to serve them when they are really hungry at snack time. Veggies and hummus are a simple way to nourish children for play or homework – but not overfill their bellies so they aren’t hungry for a wholesome dinner.

In addition to these tips, the American Heart Association has a wide variety of kid-friendly recipes and nutrition tips which can be found on www.heart.org/kids. But, the resources don’t stop there. Schools that participate in the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge program, gain access to valuable tools to help teach kids how to be healthy. Ask your kids if their school participates in these programs and if not, visit heart.org/khc to get them signed up.