7 Ways That Co-Parents Can Work Together to Put a Stop to Picky Eating
Picky eating is a typical battle that many parents face. While it's typical for a child to gravitate towards their favorite foods, it becomes a concern when the number of foods that they enjoy is limited to items that aren't particularly nutritious.
Eating a variety of healthy foods helps to assure that your child is receiving the vitamins and minerals that they need to grow and stay healthy. It can also boost your child's curiosity to learn about other cultures, the science behind foods, and more.
It's a challenge for any parent to get their picky eaters to broaden their food horizons, but co-parents face the added obstacle of fighting picky eating and coordinating diet plans across separate homes. If one of your children isn't the most adventurous when it comes to food, these seven strategies can help you and your co-parent work together to put a stop to picky eating.
Get on a routine
Set a routine for meals and snack breaks throughout the day. Children thrive on routines, knowing what to expect day to day. Assigning daily times to eat will also help to time their hunger so that when you serve food, even the pickiest eaters will be more likely to eat. As co-parents, discuss your child's meal schedule, looking for ways to synchronize your routine in each home.
Don't cater every meal to picky diets
Making a separate meal for a picky eater might be a simple fix one day, but continued catering to your child's picky diet only encourages it. Serve one food option per meal or snack, even if your child doesn't eat it right away. Be patient—adapting to new flavors and dishes takes time. Your child might not enjoy a certain food or dish today, but it's likely that they'll begin to like the new flavors you serve over time.
Keep it fun and creative
Color, shapes, and textures are all details that can transform a meal into something that kids can look forward to. Get creative with the meals you serve to your children by placing a number of visually pleasing options on their plate. You may be serving mashed potatoes one night which appear bland but placing a brightly colored roasted vegetable next to it can really make the colors pop. Make it fun by cutting fruits into triangles, hearts, and other shapes, or by giving your dishes a silly name that catches on with your child.
Get your kids to help
Take your child to the grocery store or farmer's market to explore the produce and talk about whatever items make them curious. When you're cooking, invite your child to help you out in the kitchen by doing simple cooking tasks appropriate to their age. Being involved in the meal can help to stir excitement in the food you're making before they even sit down at the table.
Don't use food as a reward
Similar to making a separate meal for a picky eater, offering desserts or junk foods as a reward for eating healthy options isn't a solution that stops picky eating. Encourage your child to make healthier selections for snacks and desserts by offering healthy alternatives to chips or cookies like crunchy vegetables, soft fruits, or sweet granola with yogurt. Sweets aren't always a bad thing, as they make special occasions even more special. Be open to offering desserts here and there, but not every night.
Set a positive example
Be the eater that you want your child to be. Don't just offer healthy items at home for your kids, but eat them yourself. Let your child see you eating healthy options. Talk about why you like eating well and trying new things to inspire a similar attitude towards food in your child.
Communicate about your child's diet
You and your co-parent may not share meals together anymore, but you can talk to each other about what your child is eating. Consider keeping a shared journal where you can each detail what your child is eating every day. This helps you each see what new foods your child is eating and enjoying so that you can both plan to include those in your household meal and snack plans. Note what foods your child is having a hard time trying or liking so that you know what you might want to avoid or re-introduce in a new way. Being on the same page about your child's diet can go a long way to stop picky eating.
Putting a stop to picky eating won't happen overnight. As co-parents, stay dedicated to working together to keep offering your child new and nutritious options for each meal or snack. Consistency is a positive strategy when it comes to ending picky eating, so keep offering healthy options even if your child won't eat them right away. Regularly taking steps—even little by little—to get your child to try new foods will help put a stop to picky eating for good.