Lisa Leake is a wife and mother of two children who, like many Americans, once thought boxed macaroni and cheese solved most picky eater problems. But, after being inspired by a television program to research what she was really feeding her kids, she decided to challenge her family to go 100 days without eating processed foods. Chronicling the experience on her blog, 100 Days of Real Food, Lisa discovered the many benefits of eating healthier.
Here are Lisa's top 10 tips to get your picky eater to chow down:
- First impressions are key. Give your child a good first impression of the real food you want them to try, like sweet potato fries or zucchini bread. Once your child thinks they like "zucchini," you'll have a better chance of getting them to eat it next time (even if you cook it differently).
- Hide and seek. If you hide veggies in your child's food, make sure to tell them afterward. That way they'll be less scared of those veggies.
- Bribery. Most parents already know how to bribe on occasion, but remember it doesn't always have to be about sweets and junk food. To get your child to try a new fruit or vegetable, bribe them with a healthy food they already like.
- The Choice is Yours. Let them pick out their own fruits and vegetables at the store or farmer's market.
- Eating is a team sport. Get them involved in picking out dinner or breakfast recipes and helping you cook the meal. Most kids will at least have a taste if they helped to make the meal.
- One bite to rule them all. Make a strict "one-bite rule" that they have to at least try a food once, and remind them that it won't hurt them if it tastes bad. Also, allow them to wash it down with their drink, as opposed to spitting it out.
- Under pressure. Do not pressure or upset your kids too much over trying a new food. There is a sweet spot between not giving up easily and not pushing them too hard. You don't want them to have any negative feelings toward food or mealtime.
- Take It Slow. If your child is especially resistant, only put one new food on their plate at a time, along with other healthy food that you know they already enjoy.
- Communicate. For older children, talk to them about why it is important to eat healthy.
- Patience is a Virtue. It really does take a dozen or more times for a child to realize they might like a new food. Be patient, and remember, persistence is key!