Chicken nuggets. Pasta with no sauce – or sauce but no meat. Grilled cheese. Cheese pizza. Did we mention chicken nuggets?
The list of go-to kid foods is short, bland and often cheesy.
As adults we push ourselves to experience different foods and discover flavors and favorites we might not have found if we didn’t stray outside of our comfort zone. But how often have we said to our child – “you HAVE to try this! It’s so good!” – only to be disappointed when they reject it completely.
For some parents, though, mealtime can turn into a battleground if our young eater is picky – and not just inclined to pasta, pasta, pasta. Enter our Dads, who know a thing or two about dinner duels with their kids. Here are some suggestions that hopefully work for you:
Create a Comfortable Environment: Keep mealtimes a stress-free and pleasant time, with conversation about various topics. Avoid talking about the meal itself or drawing focus to it. Using food as a reward or punishment can make things more tense and unpleasant. Allow your child to explore their plate at their own pace and keep the atmosphere casual and comfortable.
Gradual Exposure to New Foods: Introduce unfamiliar foods gradually, limiting them to one new item per meal. Start with tiny portions alongside familiar items. Encourage but don’t force your child to try them. Try taking a bite at the same time and express your excitement for the new dish. Repeated exposure can increase their acceptance over time.
Involvement in Food Choices: Involve your child in meal planning and shopping. Let them pick fruits or vegetables they’d like to try. Acknowledge and thank them for their idea or contribution. When they have a say in what they eat they might be more willing to explore new options.
Model Good Eating Habits: Children will do what they see you do. Display enthusiasm for trying foods that are new to them and maintain a balanced diet. Show them that you enjoy healthy options and they might follow suit.
Creative Food Presentation: Make meals fun! Use colors, shapes and even favorite characters to engage your kids at mealtime. I mean, what boy is going to turn down scrambled eggs the way Bowser likes to eat them? Or Yellow Squash that’s cut up like SpongeBob SquarePants? Activate your child’s imagination by presenting food in fun ways.
Patience and Persistence: Be patient and don’t give up. It might take multiple attempts before a child accepts a new food. Keep offering various healthy choices without pressure. Celebrate the success. It will help build confidence and encourage further exploration.
Remember each child is different so what works for one might not work for another. Stay patient, maintain a positive attitude and keep offering a variety of healthy foods. Over time your child’s preferences may evolve.
For more articles like this, podcast episodes, and events, sign up for our weekly newsletter, ‘The Dad’!
Contributors: @WoodyRouge, @freeski919, @fishling, @KAWAWOOKIE, @Western_Ad_3068, @DiscoStu0000, @lawyerslawyer, @ghyowst, @ChrisFarlee, @skywalker8583, @Grumpkinns, @Mike_33GT, @Technical_Sleep_8691, @davidfoxman, @Globalksp, @bonsaiwave, @ArchaicRome, @foxsable, @Itslegalhere502