As if distance learning weren’t already tough enough, parents of picky eaters face an extra challenge: getting their kids to eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the virtual school day. All of the changes to the normal school routine can make kids with selective palates even more difficult to please. Making sure your child eats a proper diet is incredibly important — and not just for their nutrition. The earlier children have a variety of tastes introduced through different types of food, the more it can help them long-term. Read on to discover strategies parents can use to encourage picky eaters to try new things.
Sticking to a Schedule
Attending school remotely means that many children are adjusting to a totally new routine. Instead of getting up early to catch the bus or carpool to school, kids might be sleeping in more, which throws off their usual breakfast time. Plus, parents who are temporarily working from home also have a different routine. One easy solution parents can try is setting a family schedule. Sometimes making a list or a simple overview of the schedule for the day with mealtimes, family time, and break time can help the child set some expectations.
Make Time to Eat Together
Kids are also really missing the social aspect of in-person school, including lunchtime in the cafeteria. When children eat with their peers, they match their behavior to what they observe. Even picky eaters might be more interested in trying something new if they see a friend do it. Making plans for your child to safely socialize with friends through video chats or socially distant outdoor activities can help, but parents can also encourage healthy eating habits by simply having meals together.
Get Them Involved
Sometimes, an act as simple as washing a piece of fruit can make a child more curious about foods — even ones they don’t think they’ll like. Asking your picky eater to help you grocery shop, wash fresh produce, or even stir a pot on the stove can motivate them to try something new. Choosy kids might also be looking for some control over what they’re eating, so it can be helpful to offer them options.
Having Fun With Food
Making mealtimes fun can also help choosy kids feel more comfortable trying different foods. You can cook an ingredient your kids haven’t tried before, then serve it with different spices, flavors, and sauces and ask the kids to rate it. Turning trying new things into a game reframes it as a positive experience, rather than something kids should worry about.
Adding Something They Know and Love
Pairing an unfamiliar ingredient with something they already know and love can help picky eaters get over the fear of the unknown. Add something familiar like a favorite sauce or a dip, or pair the meal with their favorite beverage. Even serving it on a plate featuring their favorite movie or cartoon character might make kids more excited about the new food. It can also be helpful to encourage picky eaters to simply taste new foods — they don’t have to clean their plate on the first try.
Vegetables with rich, deep color are an excellent source of antioxidants to keep the brain cells healthy. It’s easy to sneak veggies into spaghetti sauces, soups and on homemade pizzas, just like a colorful rainbow pizza.
Did you know that chicken thighs contain twice as much iron as the breast? You can make your own healthy versions of fast food and sneak in some veggies. Babies will love these yummy, power-packed mini burgers and are easy-peasy to make!