I’ve been counseling parents for years on how to combat picky eaters. Well, now I know…it is much easier said than done!
Here are a few things I have to remind myself of daily!
TOP 10 TIPS FOR PICKY EATERS
1. Don’t force it!
Take the pressure and stress out of mealtime and drop the battles! Your kids aren’t going to starve themselves, I promise! We all like to feel in control, especially our toddlers! They are at the age of discovering their independence and exploring their options. Mealtime tends to turn into a power struggle because food is one of the few things your child can control during the day. Although it would be nice, we can’t force feed them…right? Therefore, ease up (I mean this in the nicest way possible!). Your job is to provide healthy meals, it’s your child’s job to determine how much they eat. Instead of stressing about how much your child eats at each meal, look at how much they ate over a week’s span. Some days may be great eating days, other days your child may only eat a few bites. I know in my house Noah will have one day where he eats everything I offer him and other days he won’t eat anything! Do I worry about it? No…I let him follow his intuition.
2. Stick to the routine
Don’t let your kid graze during the day, they need to build up an appetite. It’s ok to feel hungry between meals! Having set times for meals and snacks will get your child in the habit of when to expect food. Not only will grazing spoil their appetite, it may lead to mindless snacking and possible weight issues as adults. Toddlers have tiny tummies that fill up quickly, so set a schedule to have a meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
3. Be patient
What if someone threw a rattle snake down on your plate and said “eat it, it’s good!” Would you do it? Probably not…I know I wouldn’t! That’s how your child feels every time a new food is introduced to them. A child needs to see a food upwards of 20 times before they can consider it safe to eat. Let them play with a new food. Let them squeeze, smash, poke, smell and pinch it before they decide to eat it. Don’t get frustrated and don’t give up! Maybe the 15th time it is placed on their plate they will take a bite of it….and maybe the 20th time they will actually eat it!
4. Make it fun!
Ok, I know not everyone has the time to make a caterpillar out of cucumbers…I have no life! It doesn’t have to be this complicated! Serve cut up fruit on a wooden skewer, offer a side of marinara sauce to dip broccoli in, or have a few cookie cutters handy to turn a sandwich into a star! Mix it up…pancakes for dinner always made me laugh as a kid!
5. Go shopping and cook together
Kids need to know where their food is coming from and how it is prepared. Bring them to the grocery store, better yet….bring them to a farmers’ markets or a local farm! Let your little ones help pick out the apples…they may have more desire to try one! Talk to them about meals you plan on making for the week. Ask their advice…should we have peppers or spinach in our burritos tonight? Again..it’s all about being in control, right? When preparing meals, get the kids involved! Let them help wash veggies, measure out rice or stir ingredients together. Show them what you’re doing…get them involved!
6. Set a good example
If mom and dad aren’t eating kale, why should I?
7. Milking it
Milk may be ruining mealtime success! Milk is full of protein, fat and calories. If your little one is sipping on milk throughout the day, they may never feel hungry and will not want to eat at meals! ”Drink your milk” has been engrained in our minds…let it go! Toddlers don’t need as much milk as you think…only 2-3 cups per day. In fact, they don’t even need to drink milk! There are many non-dairy alternatives for calcium, fat and protein. If your child does drink milk, only offer it after or during meals…not between.
8. Minimize distractions
How easy is it to put on a show, give them a snack and get the laundry done or dinner cooked? I’m so guilty of this one! Associating food with TV is never a good thing…it will only lead to mindless eating further down the road. Instead, have a set schedule (tip # 2) and eat at the table together. Mealtimes are a great way to connect as a family and show our kids the importance of engaging in conversations. Put the toys away, turn off the TV and tune into what’s on your plate!
9. Do not use sweets to bribe or award
I hate the idea of labeling food as “good” or “bad.” If we tell our kids “you have to finish your beans before you can have a cookie” we will make them believe that beans are “bad” and cookies are “good.” Trust me, I love sweets and don’t consider them off-limits. In fact, I think it’s better to occasionally offer dessert to your child. You don’t want that kid that goes bonkers when the birthday cake is brought out, do you? Don’t put sweets up on a pedestal. Ice cream isn’t an award and a brownie won’t make you feel better.
10. Don’t be a short order cook
I’m guilty of this one too…It must be the Italian in me! We want our kids to eat and to eat well…it’s a way of showing love! However, this is a very bad habit to get into! Your child will expect to have their favorite foods cooked for them instead of having what the family is eating. Offer two different foods for a snack and three different foods for a meal. I always include something I know Noah will eat along with two other choices. For example, he loves quinoa (i’m a lucky mom!), so if I am cooking something new such as a veggie stir fry, I will serve it with quinoa so I know he will at least eat something! If he tries the stir-fry, great! If he doesn’t, there’s always next time!
Speaking of quinoa…here is a family favorite you can try with your tikes tonight!
It took a while for Noah to like foods with fresh ginger. If it is a new flavor for your child, you may want to omit it or only add a tiny touch until they acquire the taste!
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of dry quinoa
- 1 cup sliced cucumber (peeled and seeded)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup shelled edamame
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Ginger Sesame Dressing:
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3 tablespoons bragg's amino acids
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
- ½ - 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 1 small garlic clove
- In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until quinoa is cooked. Transfer cooked quinoa to a baking sheet and let cool.
- When cooled, mix together in a large bowl with cucumber, carrots, edamame, scallions and sesame seeds.
- Meanwhile, place all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse until well combined. Pour on top of quinoa mixture and stir well.
- Serve chilled and enjoy!
Adding curly cut carrots may entice your tots too!