10 Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

If you have a child or family member who is an extremely fussy eater, whether a birth child or a foster child, mealtimes can be frustrating and concerning. However, there are strategies you can try to encourage healthier, more adventurous eating habits. Here are 10 tips for dealing with picky eaters.

10 Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

1. Set a Good Example

Make sure you model enjoying a variety of healthy foods in front of the picky eater. Seeing you happily eat vegetables and new dishes can motivate them to try something new. Don’t draw attention to their picky habits, just focus on enjoying your own meal. If you are caring for a new foster child with an agency like ISP Fostering, ask your social worker for any advice on what the child likes to eat – and what they don’t. This should smooth things over in the early stages.

2. Involve Them in Food Preparation

Get your picky eater involved in grocery shopping and preparing meals. Let them feel ownership over the food. Have them help wash fruits and vegetables, mix ingredients for a salad, decorate a pizza, or set the table. Starting them young is ideal to get them engaged in family meals.

3. Don’t Short Order Cook

Resist the urge to prepare a separate meal for the picky eater. Ensure there is one balanced meal for the whole family. Catering to picky preferences at meals can reinforce choosy behavior.

4. Serve Small Portions

Start with tiny servings of new or disliked foods. A few pieces or spoonfuls are less intimidating and easier to finish. You can even let them serve themselves and control portions.

5. Offer Choices

Give your picky eater acceptable options and allow them to choose between two healthy foods at mealtimes. For example, ask if they want carrots or celery with dinner. This gives them some empowerment.

6. Disable Distractions

Set a ‘no screens’ rule and eat together at the table during meals. This prevents mindless snacking on less nutritious options. Make eating enjoyable with table conversation versus scolding over food refusals.

7. Explore Textures and Flavors

Try adding crunchy toppings, creamy sauces, or zesty spices to dishes to make them more interesting. Finding winning flavor and texture combos can work. Get creative combining sweet and savory flavors.

8. Involve Them in Gardening

Let your picky eater grow their own fruits, veggies, or herbs if possible. Kids get excited to eat foods they helped produce! Give them a small plot or windowsill herb garden they can tend and harvest.

9. Be a Healthy Role Model

Make sure the whole household leads by example, enjoying healthy foods together. Positive peer pressure can have an effect. Let your child see older siblings and adults eating and enjoying a balanced diet.

10. Be Patient

Bringing a severely picky child around to healthier eating can take time and persistence. Stay calm, consistent, creative and optimistic! Don’t panic over complete meal refusals as this is part of the process.

The key is to positively expose your picky eater to nutrient-rich foods repeatedly. With creativity, patience and role modelling, their tastes can slowly expand over time. Remain hopeful - someday your former picky eater may end up asking for seconds of their once-hated veggies!

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