Picky Eater? Lead by Example!
One of the very first steps I ask parents of picky eaters to take is to honestly evaluate their own food choices. Consider asking yourself the following exploratory questions:
Am I a selective eater?
Do my children see me regularly try new and interesting foods and flavours?
Do my children see my valuing or relying heavily on unhealthy or processed foods more than whole, live and natural foods?
Am I distracted during mealtimes?
Do I eat fruit and vegetables regularly?
The truth is that our children are looking to us to model how to live and eat. How can we expect our kids to eat a variety of nutritious food, appreciate healthy food, be present during mealtimes, and enjoy a wide variety of flavours if we, ourselves, do not?
Children will do what we do, not what we say. What and how they see us eat is, in turn, how they will ultimately aspire to eat. For these reasons it is a crucial part of reversing Picky Eating to work on our own relationship with food. Here are a few ways that you can begin working on, and modeling, healthy eating today.
1 – Try a new food and have your child witness your willingness to be adventurous! Food can be fun! As we get older it is common to slip into eating the same foods over and over again. When was the last time you tried something new? Or to re-try something that you haven’t eaten in years because you don’t like it. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and take your child along for the ride.
2 – Stop stocking your kitchen with unhealthy food! Show your child that you prefer to fill your fridge and cupboards with wholesome and nutritious food rather than processed foods. If they ask you where the chips and cookies went and why there are homemade muffins and a fruit bowl in their place, use it as a teachable moment to talk about nutrition.
3 - Let your children see you appreciating, preparing, and enjoying food. Comment on how beautiful a head of broccoli is. Have them help you snap off the florets into tiny trees to put into a stir fry. Taste test both the raw and cooked broccoli. Vocalize that you love eating broccoli because it’s so yummy, or that it’s good for immunity, or that it’s fun to imagine that you are a big dinosaur eating tiny trees!
4 – Put your phone away during mealtimes! Model to your children that mealtime is an important family time and that our food and the ones that we love deserve our full attention.
5 – Allow your children to see you indulge in “treat” foods but in moderation and without food guilt. It’s ok to have ice cream, just not every day. It’s ok to have ice cream without using it as a food reward. It’s ok to have ice cream without feeling badly about it afterwards.
These tips will get you well on your way towards modeling a healthy and balanced way of eating. If you are the parent of a picky eater you may be interested in my 4 week Picky Eater Program! This self-led virtual program is designed to improve your child’s willingness to try new foods and lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating.
For more information on the Picky Eater Program click here.