Are you a parent or caregiver who is concerned with feeding your littles? Is mealtime a disaster at your home? Do you want your kids to grow up to be competent and intuitive eaters – to have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies? The struggle is real, and I work with so many parents who just don’t know where to start. Here are my top tips for navigating raising picky eaters:
1. Follow the Division of Responsibility
The Division of Responsibility is an evidence-based feeding approach developed by Ellyn Satter – a dietitian who specializes in raising competent eaters. The approach states that as parents, our responsibility and job is to determine what foods are served at a meal or a snack, where that meal occurs, and when that meal occurs. As children, their job is to determine what they eat of the foods that are served, how much they eat, and if they eat at all. This approach allows parents to create the environment that kids need in order to grow into and learn to be competent and intuitive eaters.
2. Model Eating Competence
It is not fair or reasonable to expect kids to eat something that their role-model is not eating. As parents, we want to model the eating behavior we want our children to demonstrate.
3. Shared Meals
Eating as a family is super beneficial and I recommend aiming to share at least one meal with your child per day. This will allow your picky eater to observe healthy eating habits on a regular basis. Children are more likely to try a new food that they have seen their family or peers enjoy.
4. Stop Pressuring
Make the mealtime environment pleasant and free of pressure. This will help your picky eater feel more comfortable and increase the likelihood that they will let their defense down and try something new.
5. Build a Schedule/Reliable Routine
Institute a schedule for meals and snacks. Frequent snackers might seem picky because they are not hungry enough at mealtimes. I recommend aiming to space the start of meals and snacks by 2.5-3 hours.
6. Get Them Involved
Including your child in eating activities is an engaging way to help them gain exposure to new foods and spark their interest in exploring or trying these foods. When kids are given some autonomy or asked to help in some way, it is more likely that they will want to try a new food. There are lots of ways to get kids involved in the kitchen like washing produce, stirring things together, or adding different ingredients. The possibilities are endless!
7. Get support
Feeding your kids is hard enough. If you are dealing with a picky or selective eater, the Registered Dietitians at Nourish Family Nutrition are here to help! You can book an appointment at www.nourishfamily.com or by calling 410-370-0415. We have a team who specialize in helping families and kids.