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By Jennifer Navaroli, RD, LDN and Kaitlin Barragan, RD, LDN

picky eater“No broccoli for me! I don’t want anything green!” Sound familiar?

Picky eating is a common frustration that many parents may struggle with at one point or another.  Some may worry that their child is not eating enough food or that they will only eat one type of food over and over again. Others may be concerned that their child would choose to drink milk or juice rather than touch their dinner plate.

The good news is that these behaviors are typical for young children as they undergo many physical, developmental, and social changes.  Here are some tips and strategies for managing picky eating and avoiding food battles with your toddler:

  • Be patient and positive: It may take many exposures of a new food for a child to consider eating it. Encourage your child to take a small taste. Even if they do not end up eating the food, at least they gave it a try. Explore the shape, smell, and other features of the food to make it more fun. Make sure to be positive every step of the way to help encourage your child!
  • Start small: Serve small portions of new foods in order to avoid overwhelming children with an unfamiliar food. Try serving a new food with a food that your child already enjoys. For example, try mixing blueberries or other fruit into pancakes and add vegetable mixtures into rice or pasta sauces.
  • Ditch the “Clean Plate Club”: Don’t forget that child-sized portions are a lot smaller than what we ourselves eat as adults. Kids will know when they are full, so let them stop eating when they are ready and avoid forcing them to finish their plate.
  • Unplug during meal time: TVs, phones, tablets and other electronic devices are distracting, and kids may be more interested in their game or show than what’s on their plate. Create a calm and quiet environment at mealtime allowing everyone to really pay attention to their food and enjoy eating it.
  • Include your child in the meal prep and cooking process: Let them pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. The more involved they feel, the more likely they will be to try the food.
  • Combine a vegetable and a favorite sauce or condiment: Offer celery with peanut butter, low-fat cheese, or a light salad dressing
  • Use fun, creative names to help make foods sound more appealing to your child: Hopefully, they’ll get excited to try Monster Mashed Squash, Broccoli Trees or Crazy Carrots!

Katie & Jennifer

Above all, remember that a little patience during the picky eating phase will go a long way!

Jennifer Navaroli and Kaitlin Barragan are Nutritionists at the Framingham/Waltham WIC Program.

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