It wasn’t very long ago that I was pregnant with my son. Being a pediatric Registered Dietitian, I envisioned preparing very healthy meals for him to eat as a baby and toddler. Of course, part of the daydream was my son enjoying the meals I had prepared. Wow did I get a good smack from the reality stick! As an infant, my son seemed to like most of the simple purees I fed him. However, when he was about eight to nine months old, he started to reject some of the delicious and healthy puree meals I had fixed for him. I was devastated! How would my little one survive if he didn’t eat his pureed kale or his lentil veggie mix puree? I had always envisioned a perfect eater during my pregnancy and my son turned out to be nothing like that. So I joined the millions of parents with picky eaters in a pursuit to find ways to get my son to eat the healthy foods I knew he needed to be eating.
The funny thing was that I already knew how to work with picky eaters. After all, as a pediatric dietitian I have worked with hundreds of families with picky eaters. I knew that having a picky eater was very common and that children survive their picky eating stage without having any nutrient deficiencies. It was just so hard for me to wrap my head around that picky eater being my son. So I finally stopped stressing out about it and started to take my own advice (I know, genius idea). So here are some of the tips that I have used and shared with other families, and guess what, they do help!
- Stick to a routine – kids like schedules and routines, so create a schedule of meals and snacks that works for your family and stick to it.
- Be patient with new foods – did you know it could take a child up to 10 times of trying a specific food before they like it? It’s true! So encourage your child to try at least one bite even if you know it’s not their favorite food.
- Use dips and sauces – most toddlers love to feed themselves and dip their foods in sauces or dips. Melted cheese, marinara sauce, hummus and yogurt can be great dips to use.
Here are a couple great dips and sauces recipes to try: Avocado Dip, Kids Choice Cranberry Sauce, Dip into Lentils, Red Pepper Hummus, Apple Yogurt Dip, and Cucumber Dip.
- Model good behavior – show your children how you would like them to eat by eating that way yourself. Make sure to have your plate packed with healthy grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats and eventually they will be eating the same way.
- Make it into a drink – make fun smoothies that you can load with fruits and veggies. Many kids have no idea what is in their smoothie but they like how it tastes and it is a fun way to get them to eat the nutritious foods you know they need. Try making a carrot banana smoothie, Cranberry Smoothie or banana, mango, pumpkin smoothie.
Keep in mind that toddlers aren’t just picky because they don’t like foods, it can sometimes be about control. Eating might be the one thing they can control in their little lives. Think about it: most toddler’s do not have bathroom control yet, you tell them when to go to bed and what to wear (if they still haven’t taken control of that yet), and they have no control over other things like brushing teeth, taking a bath and going to preschool. However, with feeding they can absolutely decide what they are going to eat. So give them the control back. As the parent, you can choose the healthy foods you are going to feed them and you can decide when. Then let them decide how much. If they take a few bites and are finished, great. If they won’t touch a bit of it, that’s ok too, but explain to them that they won’t get to eat again until the next planned meal or snack time. And stick to that! They will quickly learn that you mean business when you feed them and that if they are hungry they need to eat. I know this can be very hard to do because I did it with my own son. But the rewards are so worth it! Not only is my son a better eater but I feel less stressed out about the way he eats now that I stick to those simple rules; I choose what he eats and when and I let him choose how much he eats. It helps make meal times more fun and helps remind us of what family meal time is really all about; connecting as a family and spending time together, oh and getting in some nutrition as well!
Do you have picky eaters in your family? What are some things you do to encourage them to eat healthy foods? ***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***
Leave a comment below and you will be entered for a chance to WIN Divided Plates (2-pack), Feeding Bowls (2-pack) and a 4-pack of Spatula Spoon! TEN winners will be randomly selected from all comments (U.S. residents only). Check back on Wednesday, February 20th when we will post the winners!
Here are the WINNERS: Melissa J, Erica C, Melissa N, Ruth O, Clarissa, Juanai, Julie, Lisa B, Scott M, and Auriette. If you are one of the winners, you will be contacted by e-mail. Thanks to everyone for commenting!
Melissa Johnson says:
February 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm
Using dips is the best thing I’ve found for my picky little guy. He’s still picky, of course, but it helps!
Erica Chao says:
February 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm
No picky eaters in our house!
We got off lucky.
Melissa Navarro says:
February 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm
No picky eaters. My daughter loves everything
It would be nice to have this set for my son, he is a picky eater so giving him choices always helps and the divided plates are perfect for that!
none of my children have really been picky. When I do encounter something they don’t really like I make sure I continue to put it on their plates anyways…often exposure will cause them to end up eating it. I also only put a tiny bit on the plate…that way they only have to eat a little of what they don’t care for and they are done with it. I slowly increase their portion size and they don’t really notice
February 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm
I try to feed it to my son in different ways to change up the flavor and/or consistency. This usually works!
February 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm
We use the word ‘try’ with everything new and we don’t just stop at the first introduction if she doesn’t like something. Sometimes the next time she eats it. I feel blessed because I have a two year old who doesn’t balk at eating her veggies and even likes onions, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts.
lisa blumenstein says:
February 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm
try foods over and over again even if he does not like them.
scott m says:
February 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm
my kids love to try new foods but they hate the food touching each other.
February 14, 2013 at 3:04 am
Try preparing the same food different ways. You may hit on something that everyone likes. Record unusual reactions. A child may turn up his nose at something that makes him feel odd or sick. My husband’s parents still can’t understand that eating onions makes him throw up, and that’s why he never wanted to eat them growing up!