Remember the days when dinner wasn’t stressful? It seems like the older we get, the more stressful dinner becomes, especially when you have a child that won’t eat what you prepare! So, what can you do when your child won’t eat what you make? First of all, do NOT stress!
We know it’s easier said than done, but take a look at your expectations and adjust a bit. It’s very common for toddlers and children under 10 years old to be resistant to mixed foods, such as casseroles or very flavorful dishes. Sure, your child may have loved curried chicken when you tried it with them when they were 10 months old, but now at 18 months, they won’t have anything to do with it! Toddlers and young children tend to prefer simpler meals. This means a protein, starch and vegetable, such as chicken, rice and broccoli, without all the tasty spices you may love. While kids may be ‘turned off’ by too many flavors, spices or unique textures, it’s ok! To help bridge the gap between plain Jane and flavor fest, we recommend giving your child some options. First, try giving them something to dip in. If your child loves ketchup, give them a small amount and let them dip away! We should warn you, don’t be surprised if they just eat the ketchup first or want to dip their french toast in it too! You can model dipping into the sauce and showing them it’s fun and tasty!
When it comes to your expectations, we can’t expect our child to love everything that we love. They are their own unique person! What’s important is that although they may not ‘like’ something, continue to expose them to it, but without pressure. Make sure you include something they like on their plate, while still exposing them to new foods. This gives them the option to eat what they like and consider something they are unfamiliar with. If you know your child loves peas, but isn’t fond of ground turkey, include a nice portion of peas and pair it with ground turkey. This will help them learn to try the food they aren’t too sure of, but feeling like they have options to choose from!
Finally, let your child in on all the fun. Having your child help prepare meals with you can help them feel more connected to what’s on their plate! While you cook, talk to them about nutrition and the foods you are preparing. Saying things such as, “chicken is a protein we eat to make our muscles and bones strong!” or “Broccoli is a green vegetable we eat to make the inside of our bodies healthy” or even, “Rice is a starch we eat to give us lots of energy to play for longer!”
If you are struggling with a picky eater, we recommend trying these first few simple steps to help encourage them to try new foods. If you are finding they are eating less than 15 foods, and are refusing certain food groups or textures, your child may benefit from feeding therapy. Contact our office today to see how feeding therapy can help picky eaters of all ages. Our occupational therapists are trained to help even the pickiest eaters learn to try, and like, all sorts of foods. Not only is feeding therapy great for children for nutrition, but it shows them how eating can be fun! Meal time shouldn’t be stressful. The Kids Therapy Center at Advanced Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy is here to help! Call 973-616-4555 or click here to schedule your appointment.