Frustrated that your picky eater refuses to eat anything except nuggets & fries?
Does your child have a dwindling list of foods that they will eat?
If this is the case, you’re probably worried that he is not getting a varied enough diet.
So you become a short-order cook and give her what she wants.
Or you feel like you have to bribe, pressure, reward your child to try new foods. Or just to eat period – otherwise, they’d never even take one bite!
I know all of this just leads to stress at the table for everyone. Often yelling and tears. It can affect the whole family, turning dinner into a nightmare.
But we want dinner to be a fun and relaxed place for everyone!
And wouldn’t it be a huge relief to just be able to stop stressing about how much or what your kids eat at the table?
And for your kids to try new foods without complaining about it?
So today I’m going to share a few tips for what to do when your child refuses to try new foods.
1) Record their food intake
I often get parents saying “my child only eats 5 foods.”
Yet when they list every single thing their child eats for 3 days, it ends up being more. Closer to 15 foods, for example.
So in terms of the number of foods as well as nutritional intake, it’s not always as bad as we think it is!
I have all members of my End Picky Eating program record their child’s intake and I review it for potential gaps.
And most often, it ends up putting the parent’s mind at ease. As their child’s intake isn’t quite as limited as they had thought!
And if it truly is, of course, we work on strategies to expand the food intake as well as supplementation if needed.
2) Don’t short-order cook
I don’t encourage starving your child. BUT if they know they can get chicken fingers at each meal, they will. After all, they’re easy to eat and tasty!
So why try dinner when you can always get your fave? Kids are smart…
You decide WHAT food the child is offered. Which is the same food the rest of the family is offered
It can include a “safe” food that your child has eaten in the past. This ensures that they won’t actually starve!
There are some more in-depth strategies that you can use to expand your child’s food choices. Like sensory activities or food chaining.
Food chaining is serving foods slightly differently. Such as offering a different brand of nuggets then homemade nuggets, then fish sticks for example.
But the basis of picky eating treatment for me always comes down to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility:
3) Follow the Division of responsibility
Parent’s Feeding Responsibilities:
By 1 year, most children should be offered three regular meals in addition to a few snacks daily.
The snacks should not be constant nibbles throughout the day, but at scheduled times. Or your child will not build up an appetite for the next meal.
All family members, including babies and toddlers, will benefit from eating at the table with the family.
It is dangerous for your little one to be eating while running around.
And the family meal creates a child that is happier and does better in life! Studies show adolescents who have regular family meals are less likely to do drugs or drink, they eat healthier and do better in school.
You are responsible for the foods that your child is offered to eat. The “ideal” meal includes a good balance of foods.
This is the role that often the child will attempt to take over, creating a parent who becomes the short-order cook!
Child’s Feeding Responsibilities:
- How Much:
Allow your child (no matter their age) to take the lead role in eating.
A child’s appetite can vary greatly from day – day.
This is the hardest thing for many parents to ‘let go’ of. I assure you, it’s not your job to simply get your child to eat their broccoli.
It’s your job to help them grow up with a healthy relationship with food.
Especially with babies, toddlers & preschoolers, it’s very common for them to choose to eat nothing at all.
Trust that your child is doing what his/her body is requesting. While kids do an excellent job of listening to their appetites, adults do not – and we want them to keep this skill as long as possible!
I know this all sounds simple and easy.
But it’s much harder to implement, as it often requires a total mind (and habit) shift.
If you want more support with implementing the Division of Responsibility and some other strategies to get your child the nutrition they need, check out free training: “How to teach your kids to try new foods without struggles at dinnertime.”
Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier