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Picky Eater Solutions

Regardless of how long it may seem that your child has been lingering in the world of “picky eaters,” it will get better. As adults, we have eating preferences, but I’ve never met an adult who only ate mac and cheese. Dinnertime used to be my most dreaded time of the day; simply because I felt I had become a short-order cook. Everyone ate something different, and a 30-minute meal took nearly an hour to prepare to accommodate all five of us. Today, I’m going to give you some practical tips that have worked for my family and many others. Regardless of what type of picky eater you have (texture, color, or flat-out refuses to try anything new), you must remember to not give up and that consistency is key. Now, if we could all get a note like this one!

  1. Feed your child when he is hungry. If you want to shoot for a 6 o’clock dinner time, don’t give your child a “light snack” at 4:30 pm. My grandmother always said that kids eat when they are hungry, and if they know a light snack is coming to hold them over, the likelihood of them eating dinner (especially something that may not be their favorite) is slim to none. My kids get a light snack when I pick them up from school and nothing else until dinnertime. I have found this to work over time, and they eventually learned to not ask for a snack at 5:15 pm. It’s important to mention that your kids will give you hunger queues, such as lingering around the kitchen, asking for snacks, or getting very whiny.
  2. Stick to a routine. I hear many parents complain about their evenings being activity filled, and dinnertime is chaotic and never at the same time. My answer: You either tackle your activities or your picky eater. A mom can only do so many things at one time. It’s that simple. Evening activities are non-negotiable at my house; it’s family dinner and evening routine. While I respect my friends who have all sorts of sport practices because that’s what they are choosing to do, I remind them that dragging the 3-year-old to everything and expecting to help her “get less picky” just won’t work. You have to choose your battles.
  3. Be patient with new foods. You serve your child something that looks great and tastes really good, but he refuses to eat it. Or, it could be a small side of corn you are introducing. Still no luck. Should you serve it again? Yes. Keep at it. One day, he may try it and like it. Sometimes, you might only get two bites, and they decide that they’ve had enough. That’s okay too. Praise, praise, praise. Two is better than zero.
  4. Make it fun. Serve broccoli or other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce (for my daughter, it’s ketchup or ranch). Some days, she eats one bite; other days, the carrots are gone. At least she tried.
  5. Give them options, but not too many. “Tonight we have broccoli or green peas. Which one are you going to eat?” This way, your child has some control over their environment (a big part of why kids are picky eaters), and they are eating something good for them the same time. My daughter does not eat fruit (seriously), so I either sneak it in or say that today’s snack is a smoothie. What color would she like her smoothie to be?
  6. Recruit their help. Getting kids involved doesn’t always mean in the kitchen. At the grocery, divide up the fruits and vegetables, and tell them that they each get to pick one fruit, one vegetable. They chose it, so there is not excuse not to eat it! My friend is lucky enough to not bring her kids to the store, so she has made up note cards of fruits and veggies, and each child selects one of each before she leaves. She adds their selection to the list.
  7. Start out slowly. My son has an issue with textures and won’t eat eggs (in any shape or form), so I make him French toast on our breakfast-for-dinner nights. Yesterday, he took TWO bites of scrambled eggs, then he had enough. I told him he did a great job with the two bites, and I moved on to something else.
  8. Make some adjustments. Monday, we all had red beans and rice for dinner. Again, I pulled out my handy chopper, and it became red bean dip. I sprinkled some cheese and served it with a couple of chips. They nearly ate the whole plate. As red beans and rice? No luck. With chili, it started out as chili dip; now it’s served from the pot.
  9. Set boundaries and food rules. Children are expert manipulators. For the longest time, they whined and cried for my husband to feed them, sit between them—you name it, they tried to pull it off. With me? No luck. I often start dinner before my husband gets home from work and have them sit with a treat while we eat. This way, they are still in the family “dinnertime” routine, but I can actually enjoy my food warm because I’m no longer feeding, cleaning up after, or encouraging my child to eat. We set a three-bite rule before they can say “no” to an item. Oftentimes, they have devoured the entire plate.
  10. Stay positive. This last one is perhaps the most difficult for a busy parent. At the end of the day, we oftentimes feel spent and running on reserve power. My friend Michelle says “nothing a glass of vino can’t handle.” I love that attitude. It reminds me that much of good parenting is about being encouraging, nurturing, and being flexible. You can do it!

If you missed part 1 (A texture problem) click here, if you missed part 2 (A color issue) click here! If you are ready to move on to part 4 (Action plan) click here!

photo source

For whiter teeth check out Sexy Smile Kit.

4 Picky Eaters MOMables.com

Picky Eaters: A Color Issue

This is part II of our Picky Eaters series.  If you missed part I, you can find it here.

Picky Eaters via MOMables.comThe dilemma: Your child eats one or two food colors for an extended period of time. Typically, this includes only beige or white, creamy yellow or orange. Your child’s eating habits center around bread, cheese, pasta, milk, rice, potatoes, and not much else (aside from a few other items your child has deemed to be “safe” to eat).

The MOM nutritional concerns: You are wondering if your child is getting enough vitamins, minerals, fiber, and all the essential nutrients associated with fruits and vegetables. Not to mention, you know all these refined grains and starches are not considered nutritious long-term.

The MOM thoughts: You are tired of “fighting” about food. Meals take a long time to be eaten, and you try really hard to not lose your patience. It’s the end of the day, and you are tired and decide to give in. You figure this picky-eating habit is temporary, and your child will outgrow it.

The problem: You have become a short-order cook. Temporary is becoming what seems like permanent, and you are beginning to feel frustrated. You dread making homemade meals because of the amount of work or planning you have to do. You are also beginning to feel bad, as a parent, that you are not providing your child with the nutrition he should be getting. Deep down, you know that the gummy vitamins are not cutting it.

The result: You only buy foods that your child eats and have stopped fighting it. Occasionally, you consult with your friends to find ways to get your child to eat different foods, but you never try something long enough for it to actually work. You are back to square one.

Let me assure you that if you have a child who seems to be stuck in eating the same items day after day, week after week, you are not alone. The term for what you are going through is called “neophobia”: the fear of trying anything new, including new foods. You might have had an infant who loved food from that 1-year mark, and all of a sudden decided that “no” was his favorite word (around the age of 2). What can you do to help your child get in more nutrition? A few things, actually. Steps that require some work; but consistency is key.

What you can do:

  • If your child eats white rice, white pasta, and white bread but not the whole-wheat version, you can try introducing the whole-wheat kind by mixing up the two a little bit at a time.  Example: For a 1/4-cup serving of white rice or pasta, substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of the whole-wheat alternative. For white bread, you can either begin to make white bread at home (where you can add flax and other nutrients without your child noticing, or slowly begin to buy the white-wheat kind, then honey wheat, and eventually, whole-wheat. My friend Mary used to make sandwiches with the top side white bread, and the bottom honey wheat. Try pureeing cauliflower in mashed potatoes. While cauliflower doesn’t have huge nutritional benefits, it does have fiber.
  • You have a mac n’ cheese kid who could survive on the blue box forever (I have one of those). The trick is to slowly make the “blue” box creamier, to where you could make your own version of creamy mac n’ cheese. Let’s face it, nothing tastes like the packet in the blue box. However, there are simple things you can do to add nutrition to the blue box. Steam and puree/blend/mash 1/4 to 1/2 cup of orange squash or carrots. Add these to the blue box. Need step-by-step instructions? Take a look here.
  • Peer pressure: Nothing like a little friendly competition to get your child to eat. Invite a friend who eats “x” for dinner every day for a week. By day four or five, your child might just see that it’s “normal” to eat certain foods.
  • Mirror: If you expect your child to eat broccoli, but you never have it on your plate, it’s not going to happen. You must show them how delicious something is by actually eating it yourself.
  • In tomato sauce, you can hide just about anything that’s good for them. Add cooked vegetables and blend away. Make sure you don’t add too much, or you’ll make the sauce a very unappealing brown color.
  • Does your child eat pesto? Make broccoli pesto!
  • Don’t go overboard. Offer just a little of something with color. Parents often make the mistake of filling the plate with too many items your child is weary of. Pair a “safe” food with a new one.
  • Serve new things in a small dish so it doesn’t seem like a big quantity.
  • Sneak vegetables into brownies. SERIOUSLY. You can try out my sneaky brownies here. They are made with spinach and blueberries.
  • Are your kids color picky but LOVE waffles? We serve rainbow waffles at my house. Purple have blueberries, pink have beets, orange are made with pumpkin, green have spinach, yellow ones have mangoes.
  • Get a color chart like the one from Today I Ate a Rainbow. Play a game with your child to see how many things they can eat of different colors each day, and reward, praise, and praise some more.

Above all, don’t get discouraged. It will take some time and effort. If you are anything like me, you’ve lost your patience a few times. Don’t worry. It’s a slow process but one that is rewarding when small milestones are achieved.

If you missed the first part of the mini series, click here to go to part 1 (A texture problem)! If you are ready to move on to part 3 (Overcoming the picky-eater stage), click here!

My daughter eating celery; because her best friend told her it was crunchy and delicious.

 

 

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