Practical Ways to Feed a Picky Eater

July 29, 2019

Practical Ways to Feed a Picky Eater

Picky eating is defined by eating a limited number of foods over and over again. Mine also used to refuse anything new. They didn't like it before they even saw it. Sound familiar?

One of my kids is so picky that they stopped growing. I was insisting that they eat the same kind of veggie-heavy meals we were eating, and they simply didn’t get enough calories.

Talk about major mom guilt!

We actually went to “food school” at an institute for highly sensitive people where we learned a lot about picky eating, its dynamics and some actions to ensure your kid gets the nutrition they need to grow and have good health.

If your picky eater is a toddler, here are a few facts meant to reassure you:
  • While half of toddler moms think their child is picky, 95% of all healthy toddlers get the nutrition they need. Virtually every toddler is getting what they need. Let’s all take a deep breath here.
  • Toddlers actually need less food than they do as infants when their weight is doubling (or more!) in a year. Unfortunately, they don't send you a memo to inform you of the change. This lack of change notices continues, I’ve found.
  • Toddlers are more active than babies (and have more independence). So many times they don't sit still to eat a full meal.

Some actions you can take:

1) Make meal times low-key
    My mom made me sit at the table until I finished my frozen peas or lima beans. To this day, I do not eat them.
    After being a mom myself for 30 years now, I have learned the hard way that as soon as I engage in a power struggle, I’ve lost. Food is one place we each insist on our own independent choice. And I’ve learned to accept that and move on from there.
    I try to make food fun for younger picky eaters:
      • Cutting sandwiches into cute shapes
      • Making up stories for the veggies and the dip (“Here comes Mr. Carrot diving into the swimming pool…”)
      • Offering small mini-meals 4 times a day with healthy bite-sized choices so they can exercise their newly-found power of choosing for themselves. Some things to consider including depending on your kid’s age: cut our Zucchini Lemon Poppy Seed mini-muffins into halves or quarters. Along with some vanilla greek yogurt to dip the pieces into. (Know that for each mini-muffin, they’re getting over half a serving of veggies!) Clementine sections. String cheese. Gogo squeeze pouches. Diced up hard-boiled egg with mayo to dip it into.
    And please make sure their feet are resting on something! You know how uncomfortable those bar stools without footrests are? If your child’s feet don’t reach the floor yet when they’re sitting on a booster seat, find a bench or even a box for them to put their feet on.


    2.) Make crunchy, chewy or "slimy" textures palatable. Some ideas: 

      • Make a lunch meat “sandwich” using potato chips rather than bread (gets around the “slimy” texture)
      • Pulverize carrots into teeny pieces using a chopper. Mix with chips or popcorn also pulverized.
      • Use ground meat vs. whole muscle cuts. Our picky eater can’t handle the texture of steak, but ground beef is okay!
      • Sneak spinach in by juicing it and adding it (plus a capful of vanilla) to a milkshake. St. Patty’s Day in July!!!
      • Add a pouch of veggies into marinara sauce.
    Honestly, this is why I’ve made our Farm&Oven bakery bites. There’s no way my highly sensitive eater would eat beets – but she does in our Beet Dark Chocolate brownie bites!
    3.) Try some systematic desensitization
    It can take 20 times of being exposed to a food for a child to try it. Oh my gosh, the patience and follow through that requires of us moms is kinda overwhelming.
    The food school instructors taught me that there are a dozen or more steps to eating a new food. The first is for the picky eater to be able to tolerate even having the food on the table. The next is for the food to be closer to them on the table. Next, to have it on their plate. See where I’m going with this?
    Here are some other baby steps that a picky eater can be celebrated for achieving… one at each attempt to introduce the new food:
    • Using a utensil to pick up the new item
    • Bringing the utensil part way up to their face
    • Smelling the item
    • Putting it on their lips
    • Touching it with their tongue
    • Licking it
    • Placing it in their mouth and then spitting it out

    This is painstaking, patience-taxing work! And I’m here to tell you it works!

    If your child isn’t growing or their growth slows WAY down, please see a doctor. After years of working on this issue, we found our sensitive eater has a host of allergies and sensitivities, as well as some underlying health issues that triggered all of these problems.

    Addressing these underlying issues has allowed our child to be healthy and happy.

    Best of luck, mamas!

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