Mom's vegetable sticker hack is blowing parents' minds

March 11, 2020

Picky eating is a common hurdle for most parents of young children. Many kids are reluctant to try new foods, or they prefer standard kid’s menu items, like chicken nuggets and macaroni, to healthier options their parents try to serve. Mom and writer Jane Stine is no stranger to this struggle, and she recently shared a simple, yet brilliant food hack she uses in the grocery store to get her children excited about eating fruits and vegetables. 

“Here’s my best parenting hack,” Stine writes in her post. “You know how kids always want Paw Patrol yogurt or Disney waffles or whatever? Bring your own stickers to the grocery store and start sticking. Today we’re having Winnie the Pooh brand spaghetti squash. It goes perfectly with Toy Story broccoli."

Here’s my best parenting hack. You know how kids always want Paw Patrol yogurt or Disney waffles or whatever? Bring your...

Posted by Jane Stine on Monday, March 2, 2020

It’s so simple, yet parents all over the Internet are stunned by its genius. In only a week, the post has been shared more than 106,000 times and received over 14,000 comments. 

Most parents are cheering Stine on and calling her tip an “A+ parenting hack,” but a few parents aren’t so sure. Some wondered if it’s a good idea to trick kids into eating fruits and vegetables while others took a hard stance that kids shouldn’t have a choice about what they eat. “Just parent up and make them eat what’s in front of them,” one commenter writes. “No choice or gimmicks.”

Stine’s sticker trick is one of a million different strategies parents have used to get picky eaters to try healthy foods, from bribing kids with cookies to telling them it’s mom or dad’s way or the highway. So, what’s the best approach? The right answer has a lot to do with your individual child, says Jill Castle, a pediatric nutritionist, registered dietitian and author of “Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods.”

“The research is clear on using food as a reward to get kids to eat: avoid it,” Castle tells Care.com. “But using non-food items, like stickers, can be motivating to some children. I believe it boils down to how your child is reacting to the ‘trick.’ Do they seem motivated to try new food? More interested in eating?”

If your child seems hesitant or disinterested, it could be a sign that it’s time to find a new strategy. “Some kids may feel manipulated to eat,” Castle warns, “especially if there is a history of negative interactions around food, such as sneaking veggies into other foods a child may already like.”

It’s hard to encourage children to try new foods and make healthy choices. A lot of parents feel like they have to stick to the same limited menu or engage in arguments or trickery to get children to eat. Castle says that’s not actually the case. To help children develop good eating habits, she recommends a few simple strategies.

1. Offer a variety of foods.

“Exposure is a powerful way to help children become familiar with a variety of foods,” Castle says. She advises parents to make fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods show up regularly as a part of meals and snacks.

2. Don’t pressure kids to eat.

“Be relaxed around children who are eating and resist the urge to encourage or pressure them to try or eat new foods,” she says. “I think a good first step for parents is to take a look at their own approach with feeding. Pressuring kids to take a bite, try or eat food is one of the most common and counterproductive interventions used with choosy kids.”

3. Model a positive approach to eating.

“Be a good role model,” Castle says. “Be a parent who eats all food with pleasure and appreciation and who gets excited about fruits, vegetables and healthy eating, too.”

Stine’s sticker trick may be the missing fix parents have been searching for this whole time — or it might not be. Every child is different. The important thing is for parents to keep exposing children to healthy foods, have patience and don’t give up. Over time, they can absolutely learn to like something besides chicken nuggets.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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