It’s not uncommon for parents to worry when their child begins showing signs of picky eating. As the Executive Chef at Revolution Foods, the nation’s leading school meal provider, I experience picky eating all the time. That said, I wanted to share my go-to methods when in combat.
Let’s start with what creates a picky eater. For some kids it’s texture, for others it’s their sensitive palate, but generally, it’s that their parents are picky eaters themselves. When parents are set in their ways about anything, it encourages their children to do the same. If this is the case, you may be unaware that your child is experiencing picky eating. Some typical picky eating behaviors that you may have noticed in your child include:
- Refusing food because of its color or texture
- Choosing a couple foods he or she likes and refusing to eat anything else
- Spending time at the table doing anything but eating
The good news? These behaviors are all very normal and will fade with growth. In the meantime, try the below tricks to help keep your child’s pallet and nutrition on track for a happy, healthy future.
1. Use their habitual nature to your advantage.
Kids and adults are similar in the sense that they can be habitual and trusting of restaurants that they already know they’re going to like. You can use this tendency of theirs to your advantage when getting them to try new things. If your child is already comfortable with the chicken tenders and the mac n cheese from a restaurant, they’ll be more easily convinced that the grilled chicken salad might be trustworthy, too.
This restaurant tactic can also be utilized if you’re facing the issue of your child resenting you when it comes to trying new foods. When you make healthy eating a chore by insisting kids remain at the table until their peas are gone, it’s in their nature to rebel and put up barriers. When a fancy new meal is being delivered by a chef, however, they’ll be much more inclined to give it a go.
2. Let them play.
Use their playful imagination and create edible artwork to combat their pickiness. Animal-shaped foods and pops of color are going to motivate kids to try anything and everything you put in front of them. Adding a rainbow of veggies to your child’s plate might make them more excited to dig in and less inclined to hide them in their napkins, and as a result, you’ll also be filling them with vitamins and minerals that they may have been previously lacking.
3. Don’t feel bad about getting sneaky.
Creating dishes that contain hidden healthy ingredients inside is another great trick to get kids to try new foods. If you know they like fruit, whip up a smoothie with added veggies and protein. This is a great way to ensure kids are getting the nutrients they need, but since we’re talking about picky eaters, a best practice is to ensure they’re watching you put the “good” ingredients in. Their ears will perk up when they see you add in all of their favorite fruits and yogurt, and your days of persuading will be behind you.
4. And lastly, be patient.
Let’s refer back to my first point here: don’t worry! Just because your child starts off as a picky eater, doesn’t mean they’re going to stay that way. Kids tastes evolve as they grow. As a chef, the goal for me is to allow a picky eater to be relatively picky as long as I can see that they’re slowly expanding their horizons. Their friends come in handy this way; the different foods kids see their friends eating and enjoying will help them grow their pallet naturally.
Companies like Revolution Foods also comes in handy when it comes to giving kids that gentle push to expand their horizons. They intentionally craft culturally and regionally relevant menus to deliver great-tasting meals that broaden kids’ palates on a daily basis.
Kids have a mind of their own. Feel free to let them stick to that mindset knowing that in time, and with a few new tricks up your sleeve, they’ll get through their picky eating phase as they get through everything—with Mom & Dad’s patience and creativity of course.