ending picky eatingInstilling good eating habits before age 2 helps to ensure that your children won’t become picky eaters. Studies have also shown that eating habits are created in infancy influence choices made through childhood and adolescence. Rather than trying to curb eating habits later in life, follow these tips to help develop a taste and appreciation for more foods than goldfish and chicken nuggets.

Give It Time Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a child’s appreciation for a wide variety of foods. Discovering new foods can be a long and sometimes stressful process. The key to create a taste for new foods is patience. Studies have shown that it can take trying new fruits and vegetables upwards of 8 times, before they will eat it.

Serve a Rainbow Begin serving your children a wide variety of flavors and textures at an early start. Many experts recommend offering as many different flavors and foods prior to age 2. Children often hit a picky phase around that time and refuse to eat foods they enjoy, much less welcome anything new.  Expose them to a variety of textures, especially lumpy solids between 6 to 9 months old.

Create a Calm Environment One of the keys to a successful meal time experience is creating a stress-free space. Rather than counting the number of bites your children take, enjoy your own meal and spending time at the table with family and friends. Model healthy behaviors by fostering a safe and happy dinner experience.

Break the Rules Unlike adults, children don’t view certain foods only appropriate at specific times of the day. Experts agree that being too structured with menu expectations can actually lead to unhealthy choices. Peanut butter and jelly does make a good breakfast and eggs can be a tasty lunch.

Stack Up the Fruits and Vegetables Create a goal of offering at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal. Though it might not always happen, taking just a few bites at each meal can add up to multiple servings.

Downplay Dessert Dessert is the cause of many mealtime meltdowns. To remedy this conflict, avoid using dessert as punishment or reward. Having desserts occasionally at meal time is fine, but consider serving it alongside the meal to down play its significance. Another option is to add fruit to the meal as a sweet treat.

Talk About Food Just as children’s appetites are growing and developing, so too is their vocabulary. Talk to your children about what they are eating and what their favorite foods are. Try to make food conversations part of the daily routine.

Mix It Up Prevent your child from falling into a rut with food by varying the brands, sizes, shapes and varieties that you serve. Though it is common for your child to develop a favorite, a child that is exposed to more options tends to be a less picky eater.

Forget the No’s Grimacing expressions don’t mean that your child doesn’t like his or her veggies. Wrinkled noses and funny faces are a normal part of the feeding experience. When your older child starts in with the series of “I don’t like it”, try again a few days later.

Start with Veggies Children tend to be more open to trying vegetables when they are hungry. Either serve vegetables while you are preparing dinner or make it the first thing on their plates. This practice will help ensure you child gets plenty of vegetable servings for the day.

Skip the Kids Menu Trade in the mundane children’s menu in favor of a small plate. Breaking the notion of children’s food versus adult food can help your children to broaden their taste buds.