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Pick Your Battles with Picky Eaters

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September 3, 2012

You did it.  You made a tasty new recipe, one that is certain to delight your entire family. You chopped the vegetables by hand, grilled the chicken to perfection and added just the right amount of spices to the sauce to make it taste irresistible. But when you put the plate of food down in front of your toddler, you are confronted with frowns and whines, a far cry from the smiles and cheers you were hoping for. He wants chicken and French fries, he says in a cry loud enough to inform the neighbors too.

So much for your efforts.  Or … really? Here are some tips for making meal time fuss-free.

Your first mistake in preparing this delicious meal may have been that you ASSUMED your child would want to eat it. “Kids are more likely to eat foods that they select,” according to the Food Network.  Simply asking them which they would prefer – apples or bananas – may entice them to eat food in its entirety.

Adding some color to your meals also may be more intriguing to the picky eater. Or shape the food into designs like the bento box preparation.

Engaging your child in meal preparation also may get them to eat more of their meals. If they have a hand in making the dish, they may just as well want to see how it tastes.

Parents magazine suggests not only involving the child in helping to pick out the food he or she wants to eat and then assisting in its preparation, but to hide veggies in the food. In addition, the magazine offers that making a deal with your child, such as he or she must take one bite of everything on their plate before they can say “No, thank you,” will help to expand his palate. However, do not accept that no as a permanent response, as it may take several attempts with a certain food before the child will acquire a taste for it.

As a parent, lead by example. If a child sees you not eating the same foods that they are, it becomes harder and harder to get them to eat what they are supposed to. On the flip side, if you finish your plate that consists of the exact same foods, they may do just the same.

Also, be sure to steer clear of bribery, the magazine advises. “If you offer chips or a sweet for trying a food, your child will expect a reward every time.”

Perhaps the most important advice for parents battling picky eaters is the same for parenting in general: Be consistent. Once you lay the ground rules, stick to them no matter what. In time, you may well have turned your once picky eater into a gourmet chef.

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