10 Tips to Prevent Picky Eating
Always introduce new foods with foods your child already likes and eats. For example if you are introducing zucchini pasta, pair it with chicken nuggets.
Family style meals help expose children to new foods and give them a sense of control around mealtime by being able to serve themselves/others. Always have at least one family style food that your child likes at the table. Eat meals with your child and eat what they are eating. Even if you are eating salad, have some of what they are eating too. If schedules do not allow for this, try to make it a weekend habit to have meals together.
Set your expectation for your child to explore/play with food before he is willing to eat it. It’s OKAY to play with food. It helps prepare children for the texture and helps them to be more open to trying it the next time that they see it. Not eating it does not mean it’s a “no” food. Expect at least 7 exposures to a new food before determining if your child will or will not eat that food. The less pressure your child feels around food, the more willing she will be to eat it. Exposure without pressure is key to helping your child eat new foods.
When your child stops eating a preferred food. Wait two weeks and reintroduce it. Sometimes they are burnt out, but you don’t want to get in the habit of them saying no to it by continuing to serve it. Wait a couple weeks and try again.
Prevent burn out, by rotating foods every 2-3 days. Try not to have waffles every breakfast. Instead rotate between waffles, pancakes, French toast, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
Variation is key. Try different flavors, brands, shapes, and colors of your child’s preferred foods. If they only want one specific brand, color, etc. it creates more controlling behaviors around food and can lead to pickier eating. Rotate between brands and flavors to expand their variety.
It’s normal for children to be pickier during teething, growth spurts, when on vacation, or when they don’t sleep well. Just go with the flow during these times, but try not to worry.
Friends are key! Introduce new foods with peers present who are eating those foods as well.
Incorporate your child into meal prep. Make food fun by changing the color with food coloring, changing the shape with a cookie cutter, having your child pick out food at the store/farmer’s market, mix, pour, turn on buttons, etc.
If your child has sensory difficulties, get their sensory system ready for mealtime with the following sequence. Sensory roughhouse play—sensory tactile play—blow bubbles—mealtime.