During our recent My First Montessori School Information Session held in November we met a group of wonderful parents discussing many issues they face with their toddlers and preschool children. One of the most common concerns that came up with parents is “My child is a picky eater!”

Parents you are not alone!  This is a topic of conversation that comes up with toddler, pre-school and school age parents all the time.

Below are some tips to help with picky eaters!

The PARENT and/or Caregiver’s job is to decide:

  • WHAT food and drinks are served at meals and snacks

Make only one family meal. Do not offer your child other options or their favorite foods if he/she refuses the family meal. Plan healthy balanced meals using the Canada’s Food Guide.

  •  WHEN food is served

Offer meals and snacks at the same time every day. Your child will learn when to expect food to be served and it will help him/her to come to the table feeling hungry. Your child is more likely to try new foods when they are hungry at meal time.

  •  WHERE food is served

Children eat better when the family eats at the table

The CHILD’s job is to decide:

  • IF they are going to eat

 Your child will eat if he/she is hungry. Don’t worry – your child won’t starve itself! If they are hungry they will eat even if their favorite foods are not in front of them.

  •  HOW MUCH they are going to eat.

Trust that your child knows when they are hungry or full.

Top 10 tips for picky eaters:

  1. Plan family meal time
    Eat meals at the table as a family. Do not offer food while your child is playing, watching television or walking around.
  2. Be a role model
    Your child will eat better and be more willing to try new foods if they see others at the table eating the same foods. Family members, including older brothers and sisters, are important role models for healthy eating.
  3. Eat at regular times
    Offer three meals and up to three snacks at regular times each day. Offer only water between meals and snacks. This will keep your child hydrated and will also make sure that they don’t fill up before meal time. This way they will come to the table hungry.
    What if my child won’t eat? If your child refuses to eat at snack or mealtime, offer food only at the next scheduled time. Stick to this rule even when your child refuses dinner and has to wait until breakfast. If children eat less at one meal, they will make up for it and eat more at the next meal.
  4. Promote happy meal times
    Your child will eat better if he/she is enjoying mealtime. Children are more likely to have a happy meal time if you don’t pressure them to eat.
  5. Avoid distractions
    Meals and snacks should be served away from distractions like the television or computer. Mealtime is for eating and interacting with the family. Do not have toys at the table or on your child’s tray. Leave toys, books, television and music for playtime before or after meals.
  6. Prepare one meal for the family
    Make sure you offer food in the correct texture and size of pieces for your child. Remember it is the parent or caregiver’s job to offer the food and it is your child’s decision whether they will eat or not. Your child will be more willing to try new foods if they know they will not get their favorite foods when they refuse dinner.
  7. Listen to your child
    Trust that your child knows when he/she is hungry and full.
  8. Don’t pressure, praise, reward, trick or punish
    Children who want to be independent will not eat well if they feel pressure. Allow your child to decide if or how much they will eat from the foods offered. Trust that they will eat if they are hungry.
  9. Try, try again
    Continue offering new foods even if your child has said no to them before. Offer these foods on different days, at different meals and in different recipes. It can take as many as 10 times for a child to try a food and like it. Don’t give up!
  10. Limit meal time
    Allow your child a maximum of 30 minutes to eat the meal. After this time put the food away and let your child leave the table. Offer food again at the next scheduled meal or snack time. Extending meal time too long will not make your child more likely to eat and does not create a healthy and happy eating environment.

Below are some links for some great food and recipe blogs your whole family can enjoy. 

Veggies Don’t Bite

Connect: www.veggiesdontbite.com
The Scoop: Sophia is a mama to three young boys and she created her blog to help families get healthier one step at a time. Her recipes are plant-based, gluten-free and sugar-free, and with kid-friendly options like Enchilada Noodles and Vegan Beanball Subs, you’ll have no trouble getting children to eat their veggies.
Our Favourite Post/Recipe: The Ultimate ‘Cheese’ Sauce

Fork and Beans

Connect: www.forkandbeans.com
The Scoop: Cara’s website is full of bright, fun recipes for those with dietary restrictions. You’ll have a blast looking at her kid-friendly recipes – she even has a dedicated ‘Play with Your Food‘ category. She truly makes healthy eating fun!
Our Favourite Post/Recipe: Silly Breakfast Toast Faces

Be a Healthy Mom

Connect: www.beahealthymom.com
The Scoop: Leslie is a former attorney who transformed her eating habits after dealing with exhaustion, stress and hormone issues after the birth of her son. Now she’s a health coach who helps women regain their health and wellness, too.
Our Favourite Post/Recipe: Banana Cream Chia Pudding