A Few Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
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I’m not going to sit here and act like I know everything about picky eaters. I’m not going to claim that I can solve your problems, either. My son is only a year and a half old. I’m pretty sure his taste buds aren’t even fully developed yet.
I have, however, worked with a lot of kids over the years.
I’ve worked at a daycare with a kid who never ate. We tried everything! We would celebrate if he took one bite of his food. His doctor had assured his mom that it was a phase, he would eat if he was hungry, etc. That picky little boy is healthy and happy now and never suffered serious consequences for not eating much. It was just one of those weird things that toddlers do.
I spent a year in Germany with three kids who were all picky at one time or another. Don’t they realize they live in Bavaria? Everything is delicious there!
I’ve also babysat a few picky eaters. It’s different when you’re just babysitting and not actually in charge of their diet or meal choices. Most of the time you are told what’s for dinner and that’s what you give them. One child I babysat was your ‘typical’ kid in that he only ate a very select few items. These were obviously things like peanut butter and jelly, waffles, pizza, french fries, and a grilled cheese if you were lucky.
I have always told myself I won’t let it get that far. I’m not going to allow my child to be that picky. I know it’s not always that easy. Sometimes you try and try to get them to eat a wide variety of healthy foods but they just refuse. You can’t just let your kid starve!
While I’m not deep in the thick of ‘food wars’ with my son quite yet, I understand the struggle.
As I’ve been blogging, I’ve come across a few neat tricks and some products that might help you win the fight.
Let your child share his meal with Milton.
I received Milton free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion and review. All opinions are my own!
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get the whole idea behind Milton when I first came across their Instagram. After looking over their website and receiving our own in the mail, it makes so much more sense to me!
Milton is made of food grade silicone and is small and portable. You can keep him at your child’s seat or take him to dinner at grandmas. He loves to travel! We haven’t fed him very much yet since my son eat his dinner without much issue, but Leopold loves playing with him!
The idea behind Milton is to keep him at the table. When you introduce a new food to your child, have Milton try it first. Show them how to safely chew their food by using Milton as an example. Once Milton has enjoyed this new food, your child will feel more confident that they will like it too!
Milton is totally dishwasher safe so he can eat even the messiest of foods! He is super easy to hand wash, too. He even comes with a colorful children’s book that Leopold loves flipping through.
Have your child help you prepare meals.
Even at Leopold’s young age (and since he had just turned one). I have let him help me with meals. It is definitely easier to just do it myself and most nights my husband helps with him so I can do just that. But if you are dealing with a picky eater it might be worth the extra time it takes!
We have a kitchen helper so Leopold can stand up at the counter and watch what I’m doing or help me prepare something. He loves snacking on bell peppers when I’m cutting them up. The other night I caught him gnawing on an onion I’d used for a recipe! When children see how dinner is made and they help put in the work, they are more likely to be proud of what they have done.
When I am not in the mood for something but have to cook it for my husband, the process of putting it all together usually makes me excited to eat it. I believe it’s the same for kids! Find some kid safe kitchen tools, a tiny apron, and get cooking!
Don’t be afraid to add seasoning!
I’ve noticed when people start introducing new foods to babies they are often hesitant to add spices or seasoning. Added salt is a no-no for a while, but there is nothing wrong with some flavor!
One of my goals with my son is for him to have a ‘refined palette’. It’s partly a joke, because who are we kidding, kids are kids. But I do want him to have experience with all sorts of flavors. I’m not a fan of spicy foods but I’m not afraid to throw in a little spice now and then!
My favorites are oregano, basil, paprika, garlic and onion powders, cumin, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, lemon pepper, and parsley. When I’m cooking a new dish I like to try different ones but that’s the group I use the most! I sometimes like to let my little kitchen helper smell the different spices and herbs. I will tell him what it is, have him smell, then name it again and have him repeat it.
My husband is not a friend of the kitchen. He can make two or three dishes fairly well but other than that it’s all on me. I’m trying to do my son’s future wife a favor by teaching him to cook and enjoy different foods.
Try using a fun plate or utensil.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you eat, but how you eat it. If you have reached the end of your rope, try buying a fun plate with your child’s favorite character or animal on it. If you have to, make a game out of it.
Find a fun way to use utensils. Teach them how to use chopsticks! Try these ‘picks’ from pick-ease or maybe have them use a spoon when they are supposed to use a fork.
Be a good example.
If you hate vegetables, don’t project that on your child. I hear people complaining that their child is so picky and then I see that same person turn up their nose at a new food they have never tried. If your kid sees you stopping at McDonalds for dinner and then you expect them to eat baked chicken and broccoli, no wonder they put up a fight!
I am guilty of this sometimes. I know I need to be a better role model for my son by eating healthier! It’s hard to buy food solely for your child when you aren’t sure if they will even like it. I don’t like mushrooms, tomatoes or fish, but I try to offer those things to Leopold if we have them around. Just because it’s something I’m not crazy about doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try it.
Except for ketchup. He hasn’t had ketchup yet and that nasty stuff will not enter my home if I can help it!
When all else fails, be sneaky!
I love a good black bean burger and Leopold does too! Last time I made them my husband didn’t have a clue it wasn’t actual meat! It was packed with vegetables, too!
We have done cauliflower pizza, but I failed at the crust so it tasted great but the texture was off.
I love sneaking extra spinach in places like sauce, mixed vegetables, or a smoothie.
You can cut up carrots and zucchini super small and add it to your spaghetti sauce. The carrots are said to bring out the flavor of the sauce, too! If you want to be even more healthy, you can use spaghetti squash or ‘zoodles’ instead of classic noodles.
Substitute ground beef for ground turkey or shredded chicken for a leaner option in almost any recipe.
Make ‘fries’ using zucchini, sweet potato, or asparagus. Just bread it and bake it and chances are your kiddos will eat it up, no questions asked! Pinterest has a lot of great ideas for sneaky meal ideas!
One More thing:
Remember to be consistent! Just because your kid refused green beans on Monday doesn’t mean he won’t be willing to try them on Thursday! Keep offering these new foods as often as you can! Don”t give up after one failed attempt. I’m currently determined to get my son to eat salad, so I offer him some every time we eat it. Just because I know he won’t eat it doesn’t’ mean I’m not going to at least try!