On the one hand, every child will at some point start being whimsical and picky with his/her food; this is the result of their changing metabolism and growing rate, but also because they want to assert their independence. On the other hand, parents' duty is to make sure that their child gets all his/her vitamins and proteins, and will stop at nothing in their quest. When parents and children are at war with each other, the odds can flip on either side: the child eats only what he/she wants or the parents find some creative ways of tricking him/her into eating healthy without knowing it.
Many parents opt for the second conflict resolution strategy for obvious reasons, and although it can be a success with some children, others will not fall for it. Let's have a look at some of the wisest ways of teaching your child that trying new foods is both fun and healthy.
· Offer options and make meal time fun.
The first rule to encouraging diversity is to offer options. For example, you can make two dishes and have the child pick which he/she wants to eat, in this way he/she will feel empowered and not trapped into doing something. Or better yet, have the child choose ingredients from each in order to make her/his custom plate. Remember that you can also allure your child into eating healthy by playing creatively with the colors, by arranging funny food displays or just by mixing a favorite dish with some new ingredients.
· Disguise vegetables.
With a picky eater, vegetables are probably the hardest ingredient to swallow and will often end up on the floor. But if you try to puree and add them to the main course, chances are that children will not tell the difference and eat them anyway. If the child enjoys eating fruits, there is nothing easier than throwing in some carrots in his/her daily dose of homemade fruit juice.
· Get children involved in the cooking process.
Besides being fun one-on-one quality time, having your child help you with preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner will also teach him/her about responsibility and diversity. A child, who has actively participated in the cooking process, will in the end be curious to taste the outcome because of all the effort and time invested into it. In this way, he/she can better appreciate the food and actually enjoy it more.
· Avoid forcing them into eating, instead apply corresponding punishment.
Just as with any other misbehavior, refusing to eat should be follow by disciplinary consequences. Having a mild punishment (i.e. no more TV time) prepared whenever this happens is better that resorting to ultimatums like "You are not allowed to go to your room until you finish everything on your plate!". In time the child will try to avoid the punishment and will prefer conforming to your requests.