When we start our families, we imagine dinnertime being a relaxing experience with pleasant conversation. If you are the parent of a picky eater, though, it is anything but. In the book “Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating,” authors Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin empathize with such families. In fact, they note that 10 to 15 percent of American children have feeding challenges, some more extreme than others. It’s not unusual if your toddler is suddenly pushing their plate away. Toddlers typically experience a phase of suspicion with new and even familiar foods. Here are some tips to make mealtime with picky eaters a little easier.
“I don’t like red sauce!”
We hear this often in my house, and apparently it’s pretty common. A child who loves pizza, but doesn’t like tomato sauce on his spaghetti? Add some nutrition to those buttered noodles by sprinkling cheese and a bit of nutritional yeast, a significant source of B-complex. A mommy friend told me her “cheesy noodles” were the hit of neighborhood kids who were otherwise averse to the kind their moms made!
“Vegetables are yucky!”
Your child doesn’t like vegetables? Blend mild tasting veggies, such as peas, and mix them in tomato sauce. Then have your little one help you make homemade pizzas with toppings of his choice. For dessert, make delicious fruit smoothies, adding a handful of spinach or kale. These hearty greens are barely noticeable among the strong fruit flavors.
“I just want a peanut butter sandwich.”
While the PB&J is a great back-up plan, expand your child’s palate to include other nut butters. Spread some almond or sunflower butter on a slice of toast, or add banana slices on top of the nut butter for added flavor. You can even add nutrition to the typical sandwich by offering other varieties of bread, such as whole wheat and Ezekiel.
“I want cupcakes!”
Hide nutrition in your child’s sweet tooth! Make healthy muffins with bananas, squash, carrots and eggs. Top with sweetened cream cheese “icing;” you can even add a little natural food coloring to make it more appetizing. Chocolate zucchini bread and oatmeal flaxseed cookies are also kid favorites.
“I don’t like green food.”
Pick your child’s favorite color and create a meal around it. Take your child to the grocery store, specifically the produce section, and have him choose food in the color of his choice. Purple plums and eggplant, orange carrots and pumpkin, yellow squash and bananas can all create a colorful plate.
“I just want to play!”
Is your child playing with his food? Redirect him with a food-related story. Read “Green Eggs and Ham,” and then cook up your own version. I’ve done this a few times for my kids, and it was a hit! “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” is another cute book, and you can make pancakes in fun shapes or add yummy toppings for decoration (and nutrition, shh).
TRIED IT ALL?
If your child needs more help with his finicky eating, check out these books for expert advice for parents of picky eaters.
“Helping Your child with Extreme Picky Eating” by Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin
“Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld