MILWAUKEE -- As a parent, mealtime can be maddening. Your kid hates a veggie they liked yesterday -- and refuses to try the new meal you serve the next day. What's a parent to do? Registered dietitian Lisa Grudzielanek with Metcalfe’s Market joins Real Milwaukee with some ways to encourage kids to eat better.
1. Start outside the kitchen with picky eaters
- Read picture books with food characters. Stories can be referred to at mealtime.
- Experiences such as strawberry/pumpkin picking, farmer`s markets, planting a garden and visiting a dairy farm add to the interest and can be referred to during mealtime.
2. Give them a say
- Take your child along to the grocery store and let them pick out a new or favorite fruit or vegetable.
- Meal planning: Have your child(ren) choose one night`s dinner that week.
- Get them involved in the kitchen.
- 2-years old: Wipe the table, wash produce, tear lettuce, pull apart broccoli florets.
- 3-years old: Mix and pour ingredients, knead or shape dough, toss items in the trash or recycle.
- 4-years old: Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs, shape cookies, cut parsley or green onions with a scissors, set the table.
- 5-years old: Measure ingredients, cut soft foods with a plastic knife, beat eggs.
3. Start with a clear division of responsibilities
- When it comes to food parents take full responsibility for what, when and where to eat, while kids choose how much and whether or not they eat.
- Registered dietitian Ellyn Satter developed the theory — coined the 'Division of Responsibility in feeding' model — in the 1980s and 1990s. The version of this theory used by Pediatricians and Dietitians for many years now.
- No need to 'force' kids to clean their plates with this division of shared responsibility. You would still choose whether they are offered dessert or snacks, though.
- When a child rejects a certain food and we put pressure on the child to eat that food, it becomes a negative experience and a power struggle.
4. Make it a game
- Color game- pick a color for your snack. Do you want blue or red? Do you want orange or green on your dinner plate? Each snack and meal include at least one color.
- 'Try Foods,' where they are blindfolded and try to guess various foods based on taste.
5. Same food for all
- Avoid short-order cooking. Share the message, 'We`re all in this together eating the same things'.
- Offer alternatives to the meal you`ve prepared such as plain cottage cheese, plain yogurt or plain Cheerios; healthy yet boring alternatives, that will likely encourage the meal prepared.
- Catering to kids` picky preferences drives the pickiness and never gives them a reason to try new foods
6. Keep at it
- Lots of parents fall into the 'peas are the only vegetable my kid eats' trap; and then that parents serve peas every night.
- It may take a dozen exposure before a food is accepted. If they don't eat it, don`t give up! Keep giving it a try.