picky eater toddlerGot a picky eater? Dreading the meal time power struggle? Concerned your child will turn into mac-n-cheese if they eat it just one more time? Don’t worry, I promise I can help turn things around. Almost every parent struggles at some point with their child’s eating behaviors, but it’s how we respond that may or may not create the dreaded picky eater.

There are many ways to solve this dilemma and, as you’ve heard a million times before, not every child is the same. However, I believe these three simple strategies comprise the most important things to remember when feeding your little one!

1. Don’t be a short order cook: All too often parents are quick to whip up separate meals or even a PB&J sandwich or a cereal bar as alternatives to what the rest of the family is eating in an attempt to just have their child be fed and not screaming. The battle may have been won, but slowly you are losing the war and before you know it you make dinner thinking about what else you need to make so that your kid will eat.  This may seem like old advice but the number one way to prevent picky eating is avoid catering to it. As described by the famous Ellyn Satter, the parent is responsible for “what” is served at meal times, and the child is responsible for “whether” they eat it and “how much” they eat of it. Stick to your guns and before you know it everyone will be on the same page.

2. BE the eater u want your child to be: “Monkey see, monkey do”…for better or worse! We all have habits we would prefer our lil ones don’t mimic, but it’s very hard to enforce the “do as I say and not as I do” rule in most households especially when it comes to food. Probably the most simple advice I give my clients as it applies to picky eaters is to remember that you the parent/caregiver are the role model. Eat with your child at the same time and eat the same food. You’d be amazed how many aren’t doing this already, and how much this change can transform a child’s behaviors around eating.  Even if you only have a small portion of the food they are eating, and instead eat your meal later in the day while at work or later that evening when they are asleep, it’s crucial that they witness you eat the same foods.

3. Remove all pressure/coercion: “Take just one more bite of chicken and then you can have more mashed potatoes” or “You can’t have dessert until you finish your dinner” are some of the seemingly benign comments that escape parent’s mouths in an attempt to get their child to eat the foods THEY the parent feels is important to eat. When children feel pressure or coercion in any way to eat a certain type of food, or amount of food, they automatically pull away from it and end up eating more poorly. Trust your child to know how hungry or full they are, and which foods they want to eat more or less of.

Bottom line, the less you make it a battle, the easier it is to prevent the power struggle with eating. Most adults would agree that mealtime is an enjoyable experience for them, so why not have it be the same way for your child?

Want More? These are just a few of the strategies that will be covered by Caitlin Kiarie of Mom-N-Tot Nutrition in the class on “Picky Eating: How to Get Your Kid to Eat”; check calendar of events for upcoming class schedule.