Picky eating is typical for many preschoolers. It’s simply another step in the process of growing up and becoming independent. As long as your preschooler is healthy, growing normally, and has plenty of energy, he or she is most likely getting the nutrients he or she needs.
Many children will show one or more of the following behaviors during the preschool years. In most cases, these will go away with time.
- Your child may refuse a food based on a certain color or texture. For example, he or she could refuse foods that are red or green, contain seeds, or are squishy.
- For a period of time, your preschooler may only eat a certain type of food. Your child may choose 1 or 2 foods he or she likes and refuse to eat anything else.
- Sometimes your child may waste time at the table and seem interested in doing anything but eating.
- Your child may be unwilling to try new foods. It is normal for your preschooler to prefer familiar foods and be afraid to try new things.
How to cope with picky eating
Your child’s picky eating is temporary. If you don’t make it a big deal, it will usually end before school age. Try the following tips to help you deal with your child’s picky eating behavior in a positive way.
- Let your kids be “produce pickers.” Let them pick out fruits and veggies at the store.
- Have your child help you prepare meals. Children learn about food and get excited about tasting food when they help make meals. Let them add ingredients, scrub veggies, or help stir.
- Offer choices. Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?”
- Enjoy each other while eating family meals together. Talk about fun and happy things. If meals are times for family arguments, your child may learn unhealthy attitudes toward food.
- Offer the same foods for the whole family. Serve the same meal to adults and kids. Let them see you enjoy healthy foods. Talk about the colors, shapes, and textures on the plate.
Trying new foods
Your child may not want to try new foods. It is normal for children to reject foods they have never tried before. Here are some tips to get your child to try new foods:
- Small portions, big benefits. Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. When they develop a taste for more types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
- Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food. Offering more new foods all at once could be too much for your child.
- Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.
- Offer new foods first. Your child is most hungry at the start of a meal.
- Sometimes, new foods take time. Kids don’t always take to new foods right away. Offer new foods many times. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
Cooking for Your Family
You can easily prepare foods for a large family without spending a lot of money. Try these tips to save time, money and stress when making meals for your family.
- Keep it simple. Healthy and creative meals don't have to be complicated. A simpler menu will usually cost less money and will be easier to prepare in the end.
- Allow your family to help. Divide jobs among family members. Remember kids love to be in the kitchen! With help, you can get more done and have more time to enjoy with your family.
- Stretch recipes by adding ingredients. Get more servings out of your favorite recipes! Add rice to soups or stews, frozen vegetables to favorite pasta dishes, or beans to burgers to serve more meals.
- Options for the holidays. Try having a holiday brunch. Breakfast foods like eggs are less expensive and make a great protein for the main dish. Another fun idea is to have a yogurt parfait bar, where everyone can add their favorite toppings to yogurt.
- Make it a potluck. Potlucks are a great option for large families. If you are hosting, prepare the main dish and leave the sides to the rest of the family. It creates less work for you and allows everyone to make and sample each other’s creations.