Picky Eaters

Picky eaters frequently sabotage efforts to make healthy food changes. This can present a challenge but is not a good reason to give up the effort. Those picky folks are likely the family members who most need a healthy change. Let’s take them on as a project.

Experience as a clinician and a mother has convinced me that picky eaters are created, not born. None of us set out to create one but it happens for various reasons. Children are not the big problem if both parents are on board with healthy change and if we get our minds right on a handful of points. Let’s cover the basics.

  1. This Picky Person was not created overnight and will not be cured overnight. This is actually good news. Changing a bite at a time is the easiest way.
  2. Changing a Picky Person should be without judgment.
  3. It should not be a goal for every family member to fully embrace every food presented. The goal should be to create an atmosphere in which the Picky Person understands that all food receives a fair trial.
  4. Parents, if the Picky Person is a child, he or she will not starve in the conversion process. It is counterproductive to take a “he has to eat something or he’ll starve” approach.

A good way to start is to have a casual chat with your family about the need to eat healthy foods and enlist their help in trying new things. Trying one new thing at a time as an addition to a “normal” is a good idea. If children are young belonging to the “Two Bite” club will usually get the job done if you are patient and persistent. Everybody at the table should eat at least two bites of everything presented. Making a big production of this is almost always a mistake. Just take two bites…it is what it is. Similarly, there should be no cheering section for bites taken. This falls into the big production category.

After a number of new foods have been established as a part of the regular meal cycle you can begin to phase out the less than healthy choices. Set a pace for yourself that suits your lifestyle. One new item per week for three weeks and then eliminate an unhealthy selection is one suggestion. In choosing new selections it might help to include the picky eaters in shopping. Each child might be allowed to choose something at the store and learn to prepare it with the family. It’s best not to rush this process. It’s also important not to let a picky “squeaky wheel” bog down the process.

We will be featuring other ideas and strategies to make healthy eating changes for families. The important thing is to commit to change with a positive mindset.