Picky eating affects almost everyone at some point in his or her life. Most people have a wide choice in the foods that are available to them, so they can usually afford the luxury of being ‘picky.’ Sometimes this isn’t an issue, but it becomes problematic when you or your child starts avoiding healthy food, for instance. Fruits and vegetables are essential for any balanced diet, and without them, your body is deprived of the essential vitamins and nutrients it requires to stay healthy.
This article focuses on strategies for getting rid of picky eating in both children and adults. Read on to find out how!
1. Getting rid of a child’s picky eating.
It is easier to get rid of picky eating habits in children because they are easier to train, but it is not impossible for an adult to learn as well. Follow these steps to reverse their picky eating habits!
2. Remember that YOU are the boss.
Most children are picky eaters because their parents let them be picky: simple as that. You are the parent, and you make the rules! So don’t let your rules allow your child to do as they please. If you bend easily, they will likely force you into a compromise, causing you to create a second dinner. Who has time for that?
If your child refuses the food, try telling them that it’s the only option that they will receive. They can wait until the next meal to eat if they aren’t happy with what’s on their plate. Chances are they will change their mind!
Another helpful strategy is to insist on a “no thank-you” portion. If your child doesn’t want to eat the food you have made, give them a small portion anyways and for them to eat, or at least try. If they don’t like squash or tomatoes, try having them eat just one or two tablespoons full along with their regular meal.
Be sure to explain the rules clearly. You are the boss, but many children resent authority. Try reasoning with them instead! Explain to them why they need to eat their vegetables, and what happens if they don’t. If you provide clear reasons for your choices, they are more likely to listen to you.
3. Don’t try force feeding.
While having your child eat the food you provided is the ideal scenario, force feeding it down their throat is not.
Forcing a fork full of some food into a child’s mouth isn’t a good strategy. Perhaps this was necessary when they were a baby, but they are older now! Forcing someone to eat actually enforces bad habits. Attaching a bad memory or association with a food usually makes them avoid it forever, causing diet problems when they are older.
4. No sweets for eating veggies.
Having your child eat vegetables is a great accomplishment. But you should not reward this behaviour with sweets. If you are having dessert, keep the dessert saved for after the meal is finished. You enforce bad behaviour by offering sweets as rewards.
5. Regularly try out new foods.
Perhaps you have locked yourself in a pattern of meals in your home. It’s easy to make the same meal every night of the week, for instance. But such a strategy avoids variety altogether! Try out new dishes and recipes.
Not every meal will be a smash hit, and that is perfectly fine. If your child spits the food out, don’t get mad: instead, ask them why they didn’t like the food. Was it too spicy? Or was it too strange? How about too mushy? Figure out what your child wants and see if you can make a new recipe to match their desires.
You can also try “hiding” certain vegetables in a soup, for instance. Many childhood dislikes of foods don’t have any real basis besides their simple decision that they don’t like the food. Puree a soup with vegetables in it to avoid this problem.
6. Plan to eat healthy.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to regularly offer unhealthy junk foods to your children. These are delicious, as you of course know, and 95% of children would rather have a chocolate bar than a carrot.
Limit the amount of these foods your child has access to. By all means make them a rare treat every once in a while, but regular access enforces bad habits.
Instead, aim for a balanced diet of vegetables, whole grains, fruit, lean meats, legumes, and seafood, for instance.
Children learn habits from their surroundings. You as the parent will need to commit to this healthy eating plan as well. If you don’t, your children will be quick to suggest that they should avoid it as well.
Even if you aren’t thrilled about the food yourself, even if you made it, don’t let this show. Kids are much more observant than you might think. Never say “I don’t like this food” in front of your child: huge mistake! Always provide the impression that whatever you served is worthy of consumption, or is at least worth trying.
7. Getting rid of an adult’s picky eating habit.
Adults can be harder to please than children, especially if they grew up in an environment that allowed them to get away with just about anything. But don’t fret! At any age, they can still get rid of their picky eating habits.
8. Start with food you like, and add variety afterwards.
If you are a picky eater, new foods are not for you. But there are some things you like, of course, or you would have withered away by now!
Use these foods as a starting point and branch out from there. Do you like chicken? Great, try cooking your chicken with something new. Start small and work your way up, and before you know it, you will be experimenting beyond your wildest dreams.
9. Eat a food again and again.
Didn’t like the recipe you found? Sometimes recipes just aren’t for you, but if you are a picky eater, it might take you some time to adjust to certain foods. Some people say it may take up to fifteen times trying out some recipes before you actually enjoy them. Maybe you actually do hate it, but what’s the harm in giving a dish a second chance?
10. Before you judge your food, see, smell, and taste it first.
Picky eating is typically linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most picky eaters avoid certain foods because of the way they look, smell, or taste alone.
If you are trying something new and you find that it absolutely disgusts you, ask yourself why this might be the case. If you don’t like the look of it, try closing your eyes before you eat it. If you don’t like the taste, ask yourself why that might be the case. Simply giving up on a food right away is not a productive exercise. Find out why you aren’t interested, and let this inform your future eating decisions.
Remember to always highlight the positives. There is something good in just about anything, so try and find it! Once you identify what you liked about a dish, you can try making good decisions for your future meal choices.
11. Seek professional or outside assistance.
There are many picky eaters out there who have found help from professional therapists or medical professionals who will help you get to the bottom of your picky eating habits so that you can get rid of them.
Professional treatments typically involve a change in the way you perceive the foods you eat. They will provide you with many of the same suggestions mentioned throughout this article, but will guide you along in the process to make sure you are staying on track with your progress.
If professional help doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, try reaching out to other picky eaters. You are not alone, that is for certain! Sometimes the simple act of talking about your picky eating habits is enough to make them go away. There are many support groups out there, and if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your own home, you can even find these online. Perhaps these forums can help you get over your eating habits and onto the recovery path!
Getting rid of picky eating habits is no easy task, especially if you have had these habits for your entire life. Don’t consider yourself a lost cause! You or your children can become better people in terms of your emotional and physical health by expanding your eating horizons. Follow these steps and you should be well on your way to a new you!