Do you have the best of intentions when it comes to making healthy, home-cooked meals for your family? There are so many benefits to it, but when you have a picky eater at home, you might find yourself making boxed macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza more often than not. 

If you have a picky preschooler, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone! About 20% of children are picky eaters. But, if they aren’t encouraged to change those eating habits, they can turn into picky adults!

Preschool-aged children who only eat certain foods or won’t try anything new could be missing out on necessary nutritional needs. 

There are plenty of things you can do to encourage healthy eating habits in your little one. But, it’s just as important that you know what not to do when you’re trying to change your child’s eating habits. 

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DON’T Turn Dinnertime Into an Argument

Let’s face it; when your child won’t eat something you’ve made, it’s frustrating. It’s easy to get into a “battle” with them over the food, telling them they can’t leave the table until they’ve eaten, or even bargaining with them to take a bite. Some parents even punish their children for not eating something. 

While this might seem effective in the moment, it could turn into a long-term issue. Your child can quickly start to associate that food with a bad experience, like getting in trouble or even being traumatized over having to eat it. Pick your battles wisely. 

DON’T Have Negative Mealtime Conversations

Talking around the dinner table is a great way for your family to connect. But, try to keep the subjects upbeat. Again, if there is a lot of negative talk around the table, your child can start to associate those “bad” things with certain meals. 

So, if you’re having family issues, fighting with your spouse, or angry with your older child about bad grades, save those conversations for a more private time, away from your preschooler. 

DON’T Make Special Meals

When you make meals at home, you’re making them for the whole family. You’re not a short-order cook for your preschooler. By making them something different than the rest of the family, you’re encouraging their picky eating, and they’ll never be encouraged to try anything different. For example, you can try this method of preparing Calamari for the whole family, including your preschooler. In most cases, they can eat exactly what the grown-ups are eating!

So, while it’s tempting to give in and make sure your child is eating something, don’t give them special treatment for being picky. At the very least, make sure they try the food you’ve prepared. If they don’t like it after trying it, you can talk about making them something new. 

DON’T Reward Them With Dessert

If your child hasn’t eaten their meal, don’t reward them with a dessert. Again, it can be tempting to get your child to eat something, but dessert is often seen as a “treat,” and if your child knows they don’t have to eat in order to get it, they’ll have no reason to change their behavior. 

It’s a frustrating job, trying to change the eating habits of a preschooler, but it’s just as important to avoid some pitfalls as it is to encourage changes in those habits. Keep these tips in mind as you try to expand your child’s palate. 

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