If you often complain about or stress over the fact that your child is a picky eater, there is a good chance that it’s partly your fault. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m just saying that much of what our kids like and do is dependent on our own thoughts and actions, so it doesn’t hurt to look at how you have influenced your child’s eating habits.
Check to see which of these behaviors you may doing, so you can make some simple changes that will quickly convert your picky eaters into healthy-eating kids.
1. You assume your child won’t like healthy food.
Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you expect your child to hate vegetables, they will. If you assume that all your child is going to like is chicken nuggets and hot dogs, then you’ve already set them up for that. Instead, forget what you think about kids not liking healthy food. Imagine your child’s mind as a clean-slate. From the moment your child starts eating solid foods, assume they will like all the fresh healthy food you give them, and they will. If they are older, just wipe both your slates clean and start again.
2. You treat mealtimes like a chore.
Do you rush through breakfast and dinner? Do you complain about having to cook or prepare food? Do you pressure your child to hurry up, eat faster, or clean their plate? Then if your child is not interested in eating, they have likely picked that up from you and your annoyed attitude toward food and mealtimes. Celebrate food and mealtimes and they will too.
3. You force or coerce your child to eat foods they don’t like.
Imagine saying to your spouse, “I don’t care if you don’t like green beans. You have to eat them anyway.” Sounds absurd, yet many kids hear this every day. This is a sure-fire way to make kids hate food, especially the “healthy stuff” that you are forcing down their throats. A good family rule is that everyone agrees to try a bite of each thing they are given. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat that part of their meal. Respect your children’s tastes just as you do your own.
4. You hide or try to disguise vegetables into your kid’s food.
The only thing trickery and disguise will teach your child about food is that it’s not to be trusted. The goal is not just to get the healthy food into your child’s body. The goal is to have your child want to eat that food and enjoy it, so healthy habits are set up for life. Who is going to smuggle vegetables into your kid’s burgers when they are all grown up?
5. You make them a new meal or favourite snack when they won’t eat.
This is the most common mistake and most mums are guilty of it at some point. However, if you continually give your child a favourite snack or “kid meal” when they refuse to eat, why would they ever eat the healthy family meals you make? They won’t let themselves starve, so consider that it’s probably better for them to eat nothing, than to eat junk food or nutrition-less snacks. Here’s a great article on that subject, called ‘Stop Worrying about How Little Your Kids Eat’.
6. You’ve got them on a steady diet of “paleo treats”.
Now here’s a tough one. You’ve found something healthy that your kid will eat, so why not just give that to them all the time? Well, because coconut flour muffins, cacao mousse, and almond meal pancakes alone do not make up a nourishing diet of macro and micro nutrients. You are teaching your child that as long as you use the healthier recipes, you can eat muffins, cookies, pancakes and bars for every meal and never have to worry about those pesky whole plant and animal foods. And those treats are so tasty, why would your kid eat anything else? This is another issue that has become so common, I wrote a whole article on the dangers of kids living on healthy treats.
7. You struggle to eat healthy food yourself
If you are trying to get your child to do what you say and not what you do, it’s not going to work. Children are sponges; they are natural mimics. You must walk the talk. Eat the way you want your child to, and they will copy you. Be a role model. Learn more about how to do this in my popular articles:
Do you think you may be partly responsible for your child’s picky eating habits?
7 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Kid’s Healthy Eating Habits – September 2013