So many parents have children who are picky eaters. Often times children gravitate towards the stereotypical kids meals-chicken nuggets, French fries, mac and cheese, pizza and pasta. Many times, this can happens due to exposure; if you were having salmon for dinner with your toddler, then assumed he/she wouldn’t like it and made them a separate kids meal. If a child isn’t offered salmon, how will they acquire a taste for it? A child may then begin to identify certain foods as a "food for kids" and others as "foods for grownups." This is why it is important to offer children a variety of foods from the start (of course check with your doctor before introducing new foods). Don’t worry if you didn’t do this, it is never too late to introduce different foods to your children. There are actually many ways that YOU can help your child become comfortable with and even try new foods!
For mealtime, try to have a structured routine. Make sure your child is seated in a chair with back and leg support and at a table. Don't have your child graze and walk around, establish that meals are eaten at the table while seated.
Encourage your child to use utensils. Have child-sized utensils available at his/her place setting.
Try the best you can to have everyone eat their meals together. This way, your child is benefiting from the social aspect of dinner time and the model of others trying different foods.
Be sure to offer a variety of healthy foods. Focus on varying the flavors (salty, sweet, sour etc), textures, temperature and colors. Make sure YOU are eating the same foods too; if you don't eat something don't expect your child to try it.
If your child protests trying the food that’s fine, but make sure the new food remains on the plate in front of your child. This will help him/her to become comfortable with the sight and smell of the food.
Remember it’s OK to play with your food! Food play can help with increasing their comfort with handling new foods. This will ultimately help with consumption of different textures, colors, and temperatures.
Have your child help with meal preparation. If your child is old enough have them set the table and do simple tasks like mixing, measuring, pouring or gathering ingredients.
If your child is hesitant to try new the food don't worry you want to build up their comfort level. First encourage him/her to touch the food with his/her hand. Then ask him/her to hold it. Next, prompt your child to bring the food to his/her mouth to touch his/her lips or kiss it. Then ask your child to taste the food, just have them touch it to their tongue. Finally, ask your child to try chewing the new food then swallowing it.
Once your child tries a new food make sure to praise him/her! Ask what he/she thinks about the taste. Then for the next meal, try to change small aspects of the meal to have new components to it. Think, if your child ate peas in a soup, try presenting peas as a side not in a soup. Or, if your child ate grilled chicken, try preparing chicken baked in the oven with different side dishes.
Most of all, remember a child who is a picky eater won’t suddenly change his/her diet. This will be a learning process and require multiple attempts. Make sure to offer foods he/she previously refused; it can actually take up to FIFTEEN times before a child eats a new food that is offered to him/her.
If you feel your child is a picky eater and could benefit from formal intervention, be sure to find a therapist with experience in feeding/picky eaters.