Picky eaters can be the bane of any parents’ existence — they whittle down dinnertime options and cause concern over whether they’re getting the nutrients their growing bodies need. Even though there’s probably at least one picky eater in your family, the good news is that if approached correctly, a diet of chicken fingers and mac-and-cheese can be a passing phase instead of a life-long habit.
Here, Whitney Mabee, registered dietitian at Loblaws, shares her top four tips for raising a food lover and curing picky eating.
1. Find free advice. There’s a ton of nutritional resources available to parents, the majority of which are completely free. Provincial health services offer websites dedicated to healthy eating strategies and contain a wealth of research and tips to expand your child’s eating horizons. It may also be worth booking an appointment with a registered dietitian, as they’re an excellent way to get credible advice for your family. Some grocery stores offer free dietitian services, including store tours, recipe cards, and personalized consultations.
2. Go with kids’ picks. Kids are curious by nature — we’ve all seen them picking up or pointing out colourful or unusual fruits and vegetables. Studies show children are more likely to try foods they’ve selected, so reward their sense of curiosity by letting them add fresh, nutritious foods to the cart. Free fruit samples offered at many grocery stores are a great way for them to get a taste without having to commit to the whole product.
3. Get cooking. Helping out in the kitchen is an effective way to foster a greater appreciation for food and create respect for the efforts parents make to put together nice meals. Flip through a cookbook together for new meal and ingredient inspiration. Cooking classes are also a fun way to get them excited about trying something new. Stores like Loblaws and Zehrs offer “raise a food lover” cooking classes for both kids and parents that are co-hosted by registered dietitians and chefs.
4. Lead by example. Food choices are heavily influenced by the people around us. Children take eating cues from siblings, friends, and parents. Share your enjoyment of food and don’t shy away from giving new foods a try yourself. Instead of starting a standoff over a single Brussels sprout, explain to them that many foods are an acquired taste. It may take seven to 21 exposures before your child likes something new, so be patient.