Were you a picky eater as a child? Or are you the frustrated parent of a picky eater right now? Firsthand, personal experience is the only way to really understand the importance of food hacks for picky eaters. There’s just so many aspects to picky eating that go beyond the simple hatred for green items. Your child may be willing to eat his veggies but if they’ve touched something else on the plate then dinner is completely ruined. Your child may only eat foods of a certain color, or appear to survive on a self-imposed diet of yogurt and hot dogs. To a child this may seem like no big deal, but as a parent you are worried that your child isn’t getting the proper nutrients or will grow up to be a 30-something who will only eat her veggies if she’s rewarded with M&ms.
The right kind of hacks for the picky eater scenario are about making food interesting, appealing, and fun for kids. But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to be the ringleader of a three-meal circus come every mealtime. Simply test out one or all of these food hacks for picky eaters, and your child might just eat that arugula after all (even if it’s touched the creamed corn.)
1. Try DIY Meals
Kids love choices, but that doesn't mean they get to choose between grilled chicken or Cheerios for dinner. Instead of falling back on desperate measures, try a DIY meal like make-your-own burritos that allows kids to choose elements of a healthy meal.
2. Mix New And Old
Of course, you'd love to serve up some steaming Swiss chard and have your little one clean his or her plate. But instead of spotlighting something new and potentially daunting, put out something new to try right alongside an old favorite.
3. Make Food Fun
Food doesn't have to be a struggle; it can be fun. Follow up a reading of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs with actual meatballs, or cook a meal alongside your kid.
4. Don't Go Overboard With Food Art
It is not your responsibility (nor is it beneficial to your child long-term) to make every meal look like a Bento box that's been run through a magic Candyland machine.
5. Grow Your Own Food
It's okay if you don't happen to own your own chicken coop, but why not grow food with your child via a simple pot of herbs on the windowsill, or a plot at the local community garden? Choosing and planting seeds, watching them grow, and then enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of your labor is a great way to embrace new foods.
6. Make One Meal For the Whole Family
Given the opportunity, your child may very well ask for a different dinner form you. When that happens, Michel Cohen, pediatrician, and author of The New Basics, writes that you shouldn't make a separate meal. "At the next meal he’ll be waiting for that nice display again," he wrote. "And that display will end up including the usual suspects; pasta, pizza, hot dogs, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."
7. Eat Together
What better way to convince your child to consume a healthy, hearty meal than to eat it yourself alongside him or her? Health.com reports that 9- to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods. The children also consumed higher amounts of many key nutrients, like calcium, iron, and fiber, than their peers who ate alone. Making the time to eat together isn't always easy, but doing it when you can could be a huge step to ending your picky eater's habits.