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Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters

Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters

Nashville, Ark. – Do you have a picky eater at your house? If so, you are not alone. Picky eating is a common problem among young children, preschoolers especially. While this may be a concern for many parents, look at the big picture. As long as your preschooler is healthy, growing normally, and has plenty of energy, they are most likely getting what they need nutritionally speaking.

            Some reasons your preschooler may be a picky eater include:

  • Texture. Texture is a huge factor in picky eating, not only with children, but also adults. If food feels funny in the mouth, some people may prefer not to eat it.
  • Color. Some children refuse to eat foods that are green or red. Many times they will outgrow this as they get older.
  • Certain foods. For a period of time, your preschooler may only eat one or two foods and refuse to eat anything else. I dealt with this problem when my son was young. I could guarantee he would eat green beans. Luckily, he did outgrow this.
  • Unwilling to try new foods. Sometimes your child may be unwilling to try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

            Your child’s picky eating is usually short term and they will improve within a few years. Here are some tips to help you get through this trying period in your child’s life.

  • Let your child be a “produce picker.” Encourage and let them pick out fruits and vegetables when you go shopping.
  • Get your child involved in meal preparation. By having them help prepare the foods, they will learn about foods and get excited about tasting new foods. Young children can help in many ways. Let them add ingredients, scrub veggies, or help stir food. Be patient and encouraging.
  • Offer choices. Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask instead, “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?” Avoid giving too many choices as to overwhelm them.
  • Enjoy the meal together as a family. Sit down at the dinner table together as a family. Talk about fun and happy things that happened that day. Mealtime is a great time for families to connect and learn more about each other.
  • Offer the same foods. Avoid being a “short-order cook” by making different foods for your child and your family. Going back to my son, I usually offered green beans at most evening meals. However, there were other choices of food too. I encouraged him to try new foods. Sometimes it worked! Try not to get worried if they do not eat. Skipping a meal every now and then will be okay.
  • Offer small portions. Try to avoid serving up too much food on their plate. Children are often overwhelmed when they see a lot of food on their plate. Give small portions and then they can ask for more.
  • Offer new foods one at a time. Serve something you know your child will eat along with a new food.
  • Be a good role model. This is probably the most important thing you can do when introducing new foods. As a parent try the new food and talk about the taste, texture, and smell with your child. They will be more willing to try new foods if they see you eating it too!
  • Offer new foods first. Most people, including children, are hungry at the start of a meal.
  • It takes time. It may take several times before your child will try new foods. Be patient and offer new foods more than once.

            Good nutrition habits are important. Remember, you are helping your child develop good eating practices. Make sure they are nutritious!

            For more information on healthy eating, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 and ask for a copy of the fact sheet, “Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters.” You may also visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You may also want to check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov where you will find lots of information on eating healthy.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe is great for after school snacking! Children can make it themselves and it features foods from four of the five food groups! Making food fun to eat helps children try new foods. This is a simple snack where children create a mouse with food ingredients.

Mouse Tail Snack

6 graham crackers

4 oz. berry cream cheese

3 strawberries

2-3 pieces of string cheese

2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

            Wash strawberries and remove the stems. Slice in half lengthwise. Take one graham cracker and break in half to create a square. Spread cream cheese on top of cracker. Arrange strawberry on cream cheese spread. Take string cheese and pull off a small section. Arrange on cracker to represent the mouse’s tail. Add two sunflower seeds for the ears. Enjoy!

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

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