“I don’t like broccoli.”
“Come on, try it…”
“No way, you can’t make me eat peas.”
“You might like it.”
“I want chicken nuggets.”
“You can have a cookie if you try this first.”
Mealtime with a selective (otherwise know as “picky”) eater can be exhausting. The dinner-time dance can last for hours and your child may not be any closer to eating a vegetable.
Kids want control over their lives, and eating is one way they can feel empowered. Unfortunately, the main ways kids gain this control is by refusing to eat, demanding special meals, or engaging their parents in a debate.
Decide today to end the mealtime battles once and for all by trying these tips:
1. Stop bargaining: phrases such as: “two more bites” or “it’s good, you’ll like it” makes most kids dig in their heels and engage in a power struggle. Instead, adapt a neutral stance and create a mantra such as, “This is what we’re having tonight.”
2. Change the message: what are you really trying to say? “Battle with me and I’ll eventually give in and make your special meal?” or “I don’t really like veggies either – do as I say, not as I do.” What message do you want to send? “Dinner is a fun way to catch up on what happened during the day.” or “We are going to be adventurous in our eating together!”
3. Vary the menu: if you constantly rotate a diet of spaghetti, pizza and hotdogs, do not expect your child to have a broad pallet. Instead, offer different meal choices throughout the week. Include vegetables and fruits with your child’s breakfast or snack options. Offer foods more than 10 different times before giving up. Tastes change, and so can your child’s impression of the food.
4. Ask for feedback: telling your child that something “tastes good” does not give much incentive to try something new. Instead, give your child a chance to be a “food detective.” Offer them a bite-size portion of the food and have them rank it from 1-5 on appearance, smell, texture, etc. (Offer the option to spit it out after the taste-test) Keep track of how their rankings change each time they try the food.
5. Reexamine the portion size: giving a slice of pizza and a carrot stick means that your child will be full of pizza before even trying the carrot. Instead, give a small slice of pizza with the carrot stick – or, even better, serve the veggies before the meal. Encourage your child to eat a small bite of everything on their plate before rushing to give them more of their favorite dish.
It is not easy to change a habit. Your child may put up more of a fight once you begin to implement new strategies. Do not give up. Over time, your child may surprise you.
For great suggestions to overcome mealtime battles visit: http://itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace.com/