This article shares 6 things you can do every day to prevent and decrease picky eating.
Picky eating is not only common – it’s normal!
But just because picky eating can be a natural part of child development, it doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging to parent a picky eater. You’re not wrong if you want to decrease picky eating in your child.
Feeding a child is a complicated experience with many moving parts. While it may seem overwhelming, this is actually a good thing! It means there are so many ways to help your child and decrease picky eating.
Here are 6 things that you can do every single day to prevent and decrease picky eating in kids.
6 Things You Can Do Everyday to Prevent and Decrease Picky Eating
Share family meals
Family meals are SO good for kids. Shared meals are linked to lower risk of substance abuse and are associated with improved communication, school performance, and self-image.
Beyond that, I believe that eating with your child is one of the best things you can do to help them improve their eating abilities and relationship with food.
Stuck making multiple meals for your family? Here’s how you can make just one meal.
Follow your child’s lead
The feeding dynamic – how parents interact with a child and their eating – plays a big part in how you can prevent and decrease picky eating and a responsive feeding relationship is shown to be the most supportive feeding dynamic for kids. This means responding to your child’s needs means going at their own pace, following their lead, and not taking excessive control of their eating (don’t worry – it doesn’t mean letting your child run the show!).
Parents and kids each have their own role at mealtimes. It’s a parent’s job to provide consistent mealtimes with appropriate food selections. It’s up to kids to decide what and how much they want to eat from a parent’s selections.
You can maintain this dynamic while still respecting your child’s needs. Think of yourself as their guide instead of someone who needs to control the situation.
Get into the kitchen
Kids who cook are kids who taste. Involvement with meal prep also boosts kids’ investment and interest in eating and builds their food confidence, helping them feel more comfortable and in control.
Get your kid into the kitchen helping you cook and prepare or just having them look at new foods to decrease picky eating.
Try these alternatives if your child isn’t ready to follow recipes yet:
- Shaking a homemade salad dressing
- Measuring ingredients
- Grocery shopping together
- Washing produce
- Gathering ingredients
- Adding spices and seasoning
- Transferring food to a baking tray
Respect eating windows
To decrease picky eating, you want to work with your child’s hunger instead of against it.
Providing snacks throughout the day and responding to every one of your child’s reports of hunger may seem supportive, but it’s likely to backfire.
We need kids to come to the table hungry so they can eat well. Think about eating windows. These are meal and snack times when your child has the chance to eat if they need. The window opens and closes. When it’s closed it’s time for hunger to grow so they are ready to eat at the next window.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the mealtime environment so your child is comfortable and ready to eat when the window opens. Look at the physical environment (like your child’s chair, the table, and eating location) and the emotional environment (what’s the vibe? How is everyone feeling?).
Provide repeated exposure to new foods
Trying new foods isn’t a one and done thing. Kids need MULTIPLE exposures to new foods to develop comfort and preference. Both meeting a new food (like seeing it at meals or engaging with it) and tasting it count as an exposure.
Research suggests that kids might need a dozen exposures to build comfort. In my experience it can be much more than this. The problem is that most parents stop offering new foods after only a handful of times.
Continue to expose your child to new foods ALL.THE.TIME. Even if they ignore it. Even if they say they don’t like it.
Work on food confidence
So many of our picky eaters don’t feel good or comfortable around food. To decrease picky eating, work on building their comfort, competence, and confidence. You can do this through play, exploration, gardening, experimenting, or any food-related activity that feels good to them.
The goal of these activities is not to eat. It is simple to work on those big C’s – comfort, competence, and confidence.
When part of your daily routine, these 6 things will decrease picky eating in your child.
If you want more support as you work to improve and decrease picky eating with your extremely picky eater, join me in the Eating with Ease Program.