Monday, December 29, 2008

Strategies for Dealing With Picky Eaters

Got a picky eater in your family? Here are a few strategies that will help you in the coming year:

* Serve vegetables and new foods when your child is most hungry, for instance, before a meal as an appetizer.

* Introduce new foods in small quantities so your child doesn't become overwhelmed. Encourage him/her to take just two bites of each new food. (That's the "two-bite" rule!)

* Offer the same food prepared in different ways. Offer them alone and prepared with other foods. Cut foods in different ways before preparing.

* Give your child choices within the boundaries you establish. For example, instead of asking, "What do you want to eat?" ask "Would you like an apple or a pear?"

* Don't make a big deal when your child rejects a food. Stay calm and reaffirm the boundaries you have established by insisting that your child eat two bites before leaving the table. Don't let your child engage you in a power struggle.

* Do not completely forbid certain foods. Allow your child to choose a special food from time to time and to eat it guilt free. Teach your children the difference between everyday foods and occasional foods. In time, they'll start making healthy choices on their own.

* Consider the possible unspoken meanings of "I don't like it." This might really mean, "I'd rather have a cookie" or "I'm not in the mood for that right now." Insist on the two-bite rule.

* Avoid food rewards. Neither dessert nor candy should be used as a punishment or enticement. Instead, establish and enforce rules for when and how many treats will be consumed.

* Don't become a short-order cook. Prepare only one meal for the entire family. If your child refuses to eat dinner, remain calm, stand firm, and ignore the tantrums. Your child will not die of hunger from skipping a meal but will likely come to the next meal with a healthy appetite and a willingness to eat what you serve.

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