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Are you the parent of a picky eater? Get your child to help in the kitchen, professor says

TORONTO — For parents struggling to find something their picky eater is willing to eat, one Canadian professor suggests getting your child involved in the meal prep could help.

Jess Haines, a professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, said research shows that children of all ages can benefit from helping the family in the kitchen.

“Our research has found that when kids are involved in the food prep, they are much more likely to eat the food that’s made,” Haines said in a news release. “Getting them engaged gets them excited to try the meal.”

“When kids are labelled ‘picky eaters,’ food can often become a source of struggle and a battleground of parents trying to maintain authority and kids trying to establish independence, but when you work together on a meal, you’re on the same side. It dissolves the battle lines. It’s not about ‘eat what I made.’ It becomes ‘we made this together.’”

Haines recently completed a study using the Guelph Family Health Study (GFHS), which showed that children who are directly involved in the meal prep and shopping were less likely to be fussy when it comes time to eat.

The GFHS is a long-term study of families designed study families over several years that would provide insight into good habits relating to healthy eating, physical activity, sleep and screen time, to name a few.

Haines added that it’s never too early for a child to help out.

“Little hands can do a lot in the kitchen,” she said. “Throughout our research in the GFHS, we have found lots of tasks young kids like to do. They are good at washing vegetables, rinsing and spinning lettuce for salad, cleaning fruit, stirring batters and doughs. There are many ways they can help.”

Haines also suggested getting kids involved in lunch prep and short shopping trips may also help with fussy eaters.

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