How to Handle a Picky Eater in Your Family

Research has shown that about 20% of children are picky eaters, but when your child falls into that category, it can be incredibly frustrating. That’s especially true if you love to cook, but your little one refuses to try just about everything! Or, they might try to get into a ‘strawman argument’ with you, by suggesting that they didn’t like one dish you made with garlic, so now they don’t like any dishes with garlic. 

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more families are enjoying home-cooked meals than ever, and while you might be willing to create meals that are more creative, sometimes it can feel overwhelming when your child refuses to eat what you make. 

So, what can you do to handle a picky eater in your family so everyone can enjoy what’s for dinner? 

Stick to a Routine

Children thrive on routine in most areas of their lives - including mealtime. Do your best to stick to a routine when it comes to the times of day in which your child eats. This will help them to avoid grabbing a snack right before dinner and spoiling their appetite. If they are hungry, they may be more likely to eat what you have made, or at least try it before turning it away. 

Be Patient

It’s fairly normal for children to not want to try new things. Again, they’re used to routines, and that includes with the things they eat. 

So, be patient when you are introducing new foods to them. They might look at the food for a while, smell it, touch it, or even try small bits of it. While you might simply take a bite of something new as an adult, children are often more cautious than that. 

Let them go at their own pace when they try something new, and encourage them while they’re trying it without forcing them. Focus on things like the food’s shape, color, or texture. These things can get your child excited to eat. 

Don’t Make Separate Meals

No parent wants their child to go without eating. But, you’re not a short-order cook. If your child refuses to eat what you have made, then they don’t eat. They should stay at the table with everyone else until the rest of the family is finished, but it’s not a good habit to make them a completely separate meal just because they won’t eat what you’ve prepared. 

Eventually, they will learn that if they are hungry, they have to eat what’s been made. They may not always like it, and that’s okay. If your child tries something and truly doesn’t like it, you can consider offering them something else. But, don’t assume automatically that they won’t eat something and give them another option. 

It’s never too late to break the patterns of a picky eater. With a lot of patience, a little creativity, and an understanding of your child’s eating habits, you can introduce more and more foods to your child, and watch as they explore different tastes, and learn to enjoy new things. 

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