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Houston author Bettina Elias Siegel shares how to deal with picky eaters

End the battle at home with your picky eater!

HOUSTON – Tears, screams and food thrown on the floor; handling picky eaters can be frustrating, but there are ways to make mealtime less stressful.

Houston writer and author of Kid Food, Bettina Elias Siegel, shares tips for parents on how to handle picky eaters at home.

Kid Food is a nationally recognized book that explores the challenges of trying to raise healthy eaters.

Kid Food by Bettina Elias Siegel
Kid Food by Bettina Elias Siegel (Bettina Elias Siegel)

According to Siegel, the COVID-19 pandemic actually can offer parents a silver lining when it comes to their kids’ picky eating.

“Due to the pandemic, most families are now able to eat together every night -- something that surveys show is generally quite challenging during normal times, when parents are working outside the home and kids are often tied up with after-school and evening activities and sports leagues. And yet, we know that eating together is a very important way to expand kids’ palates, because it allows parents to model,” said Siegel, who shared the following tips to help parents make the most out of this unique time.

A reluctant young boy being fed a spoonful of peas (stock image)
A reluctant young boy being fed a spoonful of peas (stock image) (iStock)

1. Avoid pressure

“We know from studies that when kids are pressured to eat at the table, that almost always backfires. So, you want to avoid tricks that a lot of us have heard, like ‘Just take three bites and you can have dessert,’ that kind of thing. Because studies show that really tends to make kids dig in their heels and not want to eat the thing you want them to eat,” said Siegel.

2. Involve Kids in Cooking

" For kids who are picky, when you give them the opportunity to explore food in context where they’re not really expected to eat it, like gardening or cooking and not one is pressuring them to eat it, it’s a terrific way to give them control over a meal and allow them to explore food in a non-threatening setting,” said Siegel.

3. No “Short Order Cooking”

“It takes away out of the family meal. The family meal is a learning lab where kids can watch what their parents are doing and, slowly and at their own pace, learn to try new foods and hopefully like new foods. If you’re always short-order cooking, like we’re having salmon and broccoli and you’re having mac and cheese, you’re constantly depriving kids of this wonderful learning opportunity,” said Siegel.

4. Expose them to unfamiliar food apart from mealtime:

“We’re talking about little kids here. Put up a learning plate where they can touch carrots, they can smell them up, they can break them and hear what that sounds like. They get a chance to explore in a safe way when they know that someone is not going to expect them to eat it,” said Siegel.

To watch Siegel’s complete interview, watch the video above.

If you want to know more about this and other food-related topics, she’ll be part of a free virtual event presented by the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC Houston.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 PM and you can register here.

To watch Siegel’s complete interview, watch the video above.


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