Applesauce, macaroni and cheese, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These are just some of the food favorites among toddler and young children. But what if these were some of the ONLY foods your little ones would eat? If you deal with picky eaters, first of all, you are not alone. In a study done by the National Library of Medicine, approximately 39% of children between the ages of 3 and 11 are identified as “picky eaters”. If your tiny tot falls into this category, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that may help with speeding up the process of expanding their palettes, as well as a few easy and fun recipes at the end!
- Begin each meal with gratitude. Meal time should be something to look forward to, so try making the environment as positive and pleasing as possible. Go around the table and say one great thing that happened today. Say “thank you” to whoever it was who prepared the meal, before you eat it.
- Be patient with introducing new foods. Trying new things and adjusting to change can be very difficult for small children, it’s even difficult for most adults! You probably have heard that kids may have to try a food ten to fifteen times before they like it. Stay consistent, don’t give up on a food after one or two rejections. And don’t overwhelm them with a heaping scoop of green beans. Start with a single green bean. Praise them for trying it, and encourage two bites before they say whether they like it or not. Another tip - at the risk of ruining a meal around the dinner table, introduce that new food at snack time!
- Don’t force them to try new foods. Again, we want to make this a positive experience. We don’t want to shove a meal down their throats. This could cause even more harm, and potentially even more anxiety within them. We want to encourage them, give positive reinforcement, and stay focused on the long-term goal. If they are screaming and kicking their way through...stop, regroup and try again another time. You will have three more chances tomorrow. ;)
- Stay consistent with meal times. Routine and consistency are so important with children. In all aspects; and meal time is no exception. Have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time every day, if possible. Same with snacks; a mid- morning snack, and an early afternoon snack. Make sure they don’t fill up with food and drinks during those snack times. A full belly will be much less likely to try new foods when you do introduce them at their meals.
- Make mealtime fun! During both the prep and the actual meal. Plan in advance and let them help make a shopping list. And when it’s time to shop, let them find the ingredients at the grocery store, or in the pantry. Cooking and preparing the meal together can be a great activity for them as well, making them feel empowered, helpful, and can minimize a negative reaction when they see those new foods or ingredients on their plates. For older kids, let them pick a night during the week to help plan the menu! Pizza night, spaghetti night, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwich night!
- Last but not least, get creative! Make new names for foods! Cauliflower bites can become “cottonball fluffs”, broccoli becomes “tiny trees”, and a green smoothie is now called “monster juice”. Prepare food in different shapes using cookie cutters, or make “kabobs” with almost anything! Change it up, spark interest, and get those wheels turning!
I also want to share two “sweet treat” recipes that our kids love! These are both great options to add in some healthy ingredients with a delicious outcome. Let them be involved in the making of these! We are not ultimately trying to “hide” foods from them, but instead coming up with ways that they can choose to try new foods, and enjoy them!
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Smoothie
*Keep in mind any food allergy and recommended guidelines.
-1 frozen banana (slice before freezing)
-½ cup of greek yogurt
-1 cup of almond milk (any milk will work)
-1 tbsp flax seed
-1 tbsp honey
-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
-2 tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)
(add ice if needed)
*Blend all together and enjoy!
No-Bake Energy Balls
-1 cup dry oats
-1/2 cup peanut (or almond) butter
-1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)
-1/4 cup flax seed (or 1 tbsp chia seeds)
-1/3 cup honey
-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or craisins)
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp vanilla
*MIX all ingredients. CHILL for 45 minutes.
ROLL into balls. ENJOY!
(refrigerate leftover balls)
What are some of your tips and tricks for your picky eater?