While Manny is still out doing some intense child-minding, Amanda from Happy Mother Runner has stepped up to the plate to give you all another guest post. Today: what to do with a picky eater. (If you missed Tuesday’s guest post by Savannah from Savvy Pants, check it out here.)
“How about some broccoli?”
“Let’s try carrots”
“Michael, you need to eat something”
Being a mom to a toddler is no easy task. But being a mom to a toddler who refused to eat anything of substance was icing on the cake. Which, by the way, was the only thing he asked to eat for a week straight (Cake). Of course I didn’t give in, but he wasn’t going to budge either. I was tired, Michael was hungry, and my husband was at his breaking point. I knew I needed to do something drastic. I called up a nutritionist and scheduled an appointment. I prayed, hoped, and wished she would have some sort of magic trick to get my child to eat.
During my two hour appointment I had an a-ha moment. My whole family needed to change their eating habits and be more open minded and aware of what we were consuming. I went home and did as the nutritionist suggested. I purged my house of everything that was full of sugars, preservatives, and unnatural. I was going to get my family on track to eating healthy. Yes, it was drastic and difficult (and by no means am I suggesting this is the route for everyone). At first, my son wasn’t happy about the changes. Actually, at one point, he went through withdrawals from not having refined sugar. I also had to be strategic about introducing him to new foods, because I knew if I pushed him he wouldn’t try it again. In the end, the outcome was amazing.
So here is how I got my child to love broccoli, beg for mangoes, sing for almonds, and eat fish like it was next fad diet.
- Get rid of all juice (and soda). If you don’t want to throw it away, store it in a cupboard and drink it sparingly. One glass of apple juice is equal to consuming two-three apples in one sitting; plus all the sugar (even the no-sugar added) is not doing anything positive for your child. Juice also makes your child feel full, instead of giving your child juice provide them with a glass of water and a piece of fruit. Once they get into the habit of eating fruit they like, they will begin to want more of different kinds.
- Get rid of your child’s weakness foods. We all have one or two (or more!) favorite foods that we will sit and eat until the bag, box, or container are empty. Those are our weakness foods. My sons weakness foods were Lucky Charms and Gold Fish. I know that Gold Fish aren’t horrible but by eliminating them from his diet he was more willing to try new things.
- Allow your child to go grocery shopping with you for fruits and veggies. By allowing my son to go with me he begun to see what kinds of different fruits/veggies are out there. Every time we go shopping he’s allowed to pick two items of his choice. We then go home, prepare them, and eat them for snacks. This not only helps your child explore their real likes and dislikes, but allows you (as a parent) the opportunity to see what your child steers toward when it comes to veggies and fruit. If your child is older, turn this into a game. Allow your child to pick something for you to eat and you get to pick something for them to eat. Then prepare and eat together. There will be a lot of laughs, especially if your child picks a fruit or veggie for you to eat that’s out of the ordinary!
- Hide the veggies. This is how I started to introduce new tastes to my son. I would hide the veggies in sauces, sandwiches, and smoothies. In our house, tomato sauce for any pasta consist of ground-up carrots, zucchini, and broccoli. Lasagna always has squash mixed in with the ricotta cheese. I make sure that my morning smoothie has a little spinach because I know my son will steal half the cup. Where ever you can hide a veggie…DO IT! It makes it easier for your child to get the vitamins and nutrients they need without you worrying about forcing them to eat it.
- Make food fun! Let your child play with their food in a healthy way. The way I introduced nuts to my son was by making almonds into a writing utensil. I put some yogurt on a plate and gave him a few almonds to write with in the yogurt. After playing a little bit, he began to lick them, then eventually nibble them, and before I knew it he needed more almonds because he ate them all. For older kids do some food science projects. There are a lot of videos online that will help you go through the projects step by step.
- Provide your child with their own space in the fridge. My son has a shelf on the door of the fridge that is his. Make sure that your child can easily reach it. On our shelf are carrots, boiled eggs, grapes, a water bottle, yogurt, etc. Whenever your child wants a snack they know they can depend on their shelf to hold some of their favorite snack foods. Every now and then sneak something new in there. I had mixed chopped up mangoes with strawberries in a container. Before I knew it my son was walking around the house saying “mmmm good!”
- My key piece of advice is to make sure your child is being picky. A child being full can often be confused with them being picky. Never force your child to eat when they are full. By making your child clear their plate when they are no longer hungry is forcing your child’s body to override their internal mechanism which tells them when to stop eating. Consistently ignoring the urge to stop eating will eventually lead to overeating. If your child isn’t eating dinner, start reducing the amount of snacks they have during the day. And also make sure that they aren’t snacking a few hours before dinner.
Getting your child to experience different kinds of foods can be tricky. Don’t push it too fast, it is a gradual process. Eventually, through some strategic methods, your child will be more willing to try new foods.
Amanda Rosenburg can be found running, practicing yoga, swimming, or strolling farmers markets (always with her toddler in toe) in the busiest city in the world. Her goal is to inspire and help other families take the necessary steps to begin living a healthier and more active lifestyle. If life weren’t busy enough, Amanda attends Columbia University for her PhD in Communication, Computing, and Technology. She holds a MA in Child Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and a BS in Psychology and Research Analysis from Northern Michigan University. You can read more about Amanda and her adventures at www.HappyMotherRunner.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
(Image credit: CarbonNYC’s flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.)