Writing: Creative Ways to Outsmart a Picky Eater

Children's voices and laughter fill the room. It's lunch time. This everyday occurrence can be a demanding task for some, especially parents and caretakers of picky eaters.

Chelsea Reed, a nursery coordinator at Woodway First United Methodist Church and teacher's aide at Piper Center for Family Studies and Child Development, recalls several instances of dealing with picky eaters.

"I've had children come up with many different excuses to avoid eating certain foods. We work with the children to creativity introduce new foods," said Reed.

Picky eating can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and environmental influences. A study conducted by the American Dietetic Association indicated picky eaters have nutrient intakes lower than nonpicky eaters of the same age. A balanced diet is essential to healthy brain development.

By introducing new mealtime activities and practices, caretakers can learn to help children incorporate new food into their diets.

"Prepare child-sized portions and make the presentation fun. Encourage older children to serve themselves, " Reed said.

By adding an element of fun to meals, parents can appeal to picky eaters.

- Allow your child to help prepare the meal.

- Use cookie cutters to cut food into fun shapes.

- Incorporate your child's name into recipes. For example, Mason's Salad or Nate's Spaghetti.

- Have your child create their own design using fruits and vegetables on their plate.

Another common mealtime mistake is attributing food to increased intelligence or strength.

"One of the worst things a parent can do is tell their child a certain food makes them stronger or smarter," said Dr. Jeff Tanner marketing professor at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.

Tanner cited a recent study conducted by Dr. Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. The study concluded caretakes and parents should not tell children fruits and vegetables would make them stronger, but instead focus on explaining the taste and testure of the food to children.

Family and food blogger, Bettina Elias Siegel, suggests parents follow their own rules and do what they intuitively feel would work best for themselves and their children when it comes to picky eating. When a tricky mealtime situation arises, Siegel says parents should stick to what they know works with their child, even if it conflicts with advice of experts. However, she also warns to avoid causing tension or offering challenges because this can lead to more mealtime conflicts.

When asked about her best advice for dealing with a picky eater Siegel said, "I can sum it up in one word: patience."