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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.




Picky Eaters: A Texture Problem

7 Mom TipsWelcome to the first of our four-part picky-eater mini series. We have received many e-mails with questions on how to help children overcome “stages” of picky eating. Is it a disorder? Is it temporary? What can I do to help my child? These are just a few examples of questions many parents have e-mailed us. Today, we’ll begin with the “texture” issue, one many parents have found difficult to overcome.

What is a texture issue? If your child will only eat soft or pureed foods, such as bananas, cream cheese, PB&J, yogurt, etc. Or, your child will only eat crunchy foods such as pretzels, carrots, chips, and apples. If your child has no signs of difficulty swallowing, teething pain, a sensory problem (difficulty being touched), or autism, think of this picky eating as temporary (otherwise, please consult your doctor). How long is temporary? What can you do to lessen the problem and move your child toward a more tolerant stage?

Research shows that if you can get kids to eat most foods by the time they are in high school, they will eat nearly everything by adulthood. My husband will not eat cold and crunchy (to this day), and I am happy with sprinkled Grape Nuts over Jello. Our kids? Picky eaters in every sense of the word. So, believe me when I tell you that I’ve tried everything in our household.

Here are seven MOM tips to help you if your child has “texture” issues:

  • Get your child involved in sensory activities. We’ve all heard the “get your child involved in cooking, and they are more likely to eat the food.” Well, that does not work on my uber-picky children. They are happy to help cook but not eat. Try instead: If you have a “crunchy” kid, get him involved in “soft” sensory activities such as play dough or a pudding board (see below). If you have a “soft” kid, try playing with textured items such as cooked spaghetti (older kids can “braid” the spaghetti or make knots). Another activity to try is gluing or coloring uncooked pasta onto a paper or board. With toddlers, the high chair is your friend; get them to play with food. The key is to familiarize the senses with the opposite texture.
  • Match food to their senses. My son doesn’t like crunchy anything or meat texture, so much of his food takes a trip through the mini food processor (another reason we suggest one in the MOMables store as a kitchen essential). Many foods get mixed with whipped cream cheese (to introduce taste slowly) or hidden in tomato sauce, and he eats lots of warm “dips.” Taco night? He eats “dip” and chips. Everything cooked that you’d put inside a taco is now a delicious dip! Want to have more sandwich options? Make chicken salad, tuna salad, and egg salad in a mini chopper; you’ll get a creamy consistency this type of kid tends to like. With a kid who complains about food being “slimy” or “squishy,” you need to modify items so they have the texture they need: crunch. Instead of mashed potatoes, try baked wedges or baked potatoes. Soups? Chunky. Sandwich fillers? Also chunky.
  • Reward your child. Set up a reward system. Give your child tokens, coins, or stickers for trying new foods—even if they only take one bite. They can trade them in for a new toy, an outing, or something they have been wanting for a long time. Your 10-year-old wants a new bike? Establish a price and a deadline (such as birthdays). The key is finding a reward system that will work for your child and sticking with it. Consistency is key. Once you find one new food they like, add slowly to their repertoire.
  • Give your child some control. Don’t ask: What would you like to eat? Instead, offer her two choices, no more. We have carrots or peas. Which one would you rather eat? Remind them that they only need to take two or three bites (depending on your rules). When asked open-ended questions, a child will always answer with a “safe” food.
  • Make sure your child is hungry at mealtime. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I know many parents who ruin it by offering their kid a snack around 4 pm, and then expect their kid to eat dinner at 6. Then, frustration builds up because he refuses to eat. Really? They are just not hungry enough. I’ve learned that my kids need at least 3 hours before they are willing to eat a non-favorite dinner; therefore, an after-school snack happens between car line and 3:30 pm.
  • Give your child free rein of the condiments. Whatever gets them to eat them at first is what has worked best. While there is a difference between half a bottle of ketchup and a tablespoon, I am not going to make a fuss if he eats his peas. Eventually, the food item goes into the “safe” list, and that’s one more MOM point for that texture.
  • Praise, praise, praise! No one told me that I would need to buy a set of pom-poms when I became a parent. The truth? We all like to be praised, even in the little things. Why should I expect my husband to tell me “the house looks nice” after 4 hours of tiding up, when I don’t praise my child for eating peas? Praising is an ongoing thing that reinforces the behavior we want to establish. After a while, this behavior becomes a habit.

Texture is one of those things that can really frustrate a parent. Everything we eat has different textures, and when you have more than one child, you can begin to feel like a short-order cook real fast! Go ahead, take the pledge, and try one or two of the seven tips. Remember, consistency is key, and soon your child will learn the rule and what’s expected, and he will begin to feel good about the eating process. Next week, we’ll continue this four-part series with the “color” problem.

So what’s next? How about issues with color. Click here to read part two in the picky-eaters mini series!

—Pudding Board:  Take a cookie sheet tray, and pour between 4 and 6 ounces of pudding. Let your child “draw” on there with his fingers. To erase, wiggle the pudding board and start over.


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