Dealing with a finicky eater can be tough, especially if you're in a public place. Finding ways to encourage your child to eat new foods, especially healthy items, can be exhausting for any parent. Whether your child is two and just learning that he has opinions about the things he eats or your picky eater is 13 and well established in his feelings about food, there are a number of ways that you can help your child learn to try new things and get out of his comfort zone when it comes to food.
Avoid Punishments For Picky Eating
First of all, don't punish your child for being scared of food. It's natural to be scared to try something you don't think you'll like. If you make threats to your child regarding punishments, he'll start to dread mealtime. Many teens and young adults struggle with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Don't encourage poor eating habits in your child by scaring him about food. Discipline should be used to guide misbehavior and not as a way to make your child try a new food.
Don't Avoid Restaurants
When you first start to help your child break out of his picky habits, it's normal to want to avoid restaurants. If your picky eater is an older child, though, it's okay to take him out to eat even if it's to a new restaurant. Encourage your child with words of affirmation to try something new on the menu. Opt for plain, ordinary foods that your child won't be scared of. If he can't decide, consider ordering a sampler platter so he can have a bit of control when it comes to what he eats. If your child can't find something he likes or wants to eat, remind him that he can make something else to eat when you get home. Don't feel like you have to change restaurants just to appease your child.
Try New Things Together
Make it a goal to try something new as a family on a regular basis. Many parents unintentionally encourage picky eating by regularly cooking the same meals. If your family has had Taco Tuesday and Fried Fish Fridays for years, it may be time to mix things up. Check out Pinterest or another online cooking website you like to find some new ideas. Let your child help you look through recipes and find something the two of you can make together. If the whole family tries something new, it may be less fearful for your picky eater.
Talk About Healthy Diets
Talk with your child about the importance of maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet. Sometimes kids feel nervous about trying new foods, but it's incredibly important for growing children to have a well-rounded diet. Explain to your child that his body needs plenty of fruit, vegetables, and protein in order to grow strong. If your child simply hates all of the food options you've presented, consider taking him to the grocery store with you on a special trip to find some healthy, new foods that he is willing to try out.