Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday's Tips: Picky Eaters

courtesy of
As a mom it's frustrating when a child won't eat the food you've prepared for them.  Sometimes it can even become worrisome if they aren't eating enough, or aren't eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients they need.  The number of possible solutions are endless....and there will be more posts on this topic.  But here are a few to try if you're at the point of throwing your hands up in the air at every meal time. 

*Think of your child's personality.  The same things don't work with every child.
*Also remember to be positive.  If you're nagging, getting mad, punishing, etc. it actually backfires worse than you have any idea.  It becomes a power struggle and that doesn't work.  The child will push back harder and harder
*Sprinkles.  Many kids will eat anything with sprinkles on it.  Broccoli, green beans, peaches, pasta, chicken.....  It sounds gross, but is true.  Just remember, you don't have to have it on your own food. 
*Shapes.  Do you have cookie cutters in the shape of hearts, stars, etc.  Use them on sandwiches and other food.  You can also use a butter knife to cut a shape.  Just be careful and don't make it too elaborate.  You'd regret your child requesting a detailed ferris wheel ham sandwich every day.
*Dipping.  Some kids believe Ranch dressing or Ketchup make everything wonderful.  And I do mean EVERYTHING.  While you don't want your child to be drinking ketchup and ranch because they're not very healthy, there are a lot of foods that if dipping will help them want to eat it, the nutrients in the food will outweigh the unhealthiness of the dips.  You could also try yogurt, hummus, or other things your child may like.
*Other kids.  My son will always eat what he sees other children eat.  He seems to trust their tastebuds more than mine or my husband's.  Have a lunch group, or occasional meal with cousins or neighbors and let your child sit with the other kids.  Then dish up the same food the others are eating.  Not just what you know they already like. 
*Making food.  If a child helps make a food it can be more exciting to them.  They feel like they have ownership of the food and will often times love it.
*Counting.  "At least one bite" is a good standard rule.  If you are consistent with this, they'll know they can stop after one bite and you won't bother them anymore.  So, they'll do it without a tantrum. 
Best case scenario: they love it and will eat more. 
Worst case scenario: they tried something new and got a few nutrients. 
You could try another way of counting besides "at least one bite".  You may tell them ten bites of food on their plate...but they can choose which foods, or can even ask them how many bites they will take and then hold them to it (in positive encouraging ways...not punishments).  There are many ways to implement counting into eating.  And children who are learning to count seem to repond well. 
If your child doesn't want to eat everything, it's okay.  Forcing them to eat everything can add to multiple problems like not recognizing when they're full and can 'turn off' their ability to recognize when they're full...which leads to overeating in the future.  It can also become a power struggle-which three year olds are especially excellent at.

If none of these things help, don't give up hope.  If you are seriously concerned, talk with your pediatrician.


Stillman and Michelle said...

Hey, I am a friend of Kyle's, from Del Sol. Love your new blog. On the picky eaters post I have the two worst ones. Enabled, by me, as a picky eater myself. The One bite works great. We call it a "No-Thank-You-Bite" After one bite they can say "No Thank You". Out of courtesy to the cook they have to at least try it. It works wonders and 8 times out of Ten they actually like the what they ate.

Alyssa said...

I was in the dietetics program as well as got my degree in family consumer science and human development. One of the books that comes highly recommended is How to Get Your Kids to Eat But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter. She is the guru of kids and eating. She has several other good books as well. Kids have to be introduced to foods several times sometimes. Ellyn Satter says that it is your job to decide what to provide and when to provide the food and your childs job is choose how much and what to eat. Kids will eat if they are hungry. She gives several other helpful tips. I do like the "No-Thank-You-Bite" method as well.