When it comes to eating, children tend to fall into one of two categories: adventurous or picky. They often cycle between the two categories, much to the frustration of their parents.
If you find it faster to list your child’s likes than his dislikes, than you can probably fully relate to the dreaded, but oh-so-common ‘picky eater’. On the contrary, if your children will readily consume anything in sight, you may not give as much thought to this issue that many of us face daily.
Either way, don’t skip this post, because the tables could turn when you least expect it.
I am no stranger to the fussy eater. If I took the time to look back and analyze my experiences as a mom, coping with picky eaters would probably top my list as the single most frustrating aspect of parenting.
The fact of the matter is, a child’s finicky-ness at the dinner table is not a result of something we did –or didn’t do- during pregnancy; it wasn’t because of when or how we introduced solids either. It’s just kids being kids, so stop blaming yourself!
As I look back on the progress we have made over the years, I can say that as slow as it may be, the good news is that progress can be made. Here are a few things I have learned so far.
8 Survival Tips for Coping with Picky Eaters
Note that this is not a list that promises to change your child’s habits or ‘cure’ them of their finicky ways. It is meant to come alongside you in your struggle and provide a few simple solutions to help ensure your little ones are getting the balanced diet they need.
1. Pack in a big breakfast
This will help replenish energy reserves, especial if supper was minimal the night before. Try and include whole grains, fruit and even a vegetable such as Sweet Potato Pancakes. If your child isn’t big on breakfast, be sure to serve up a solid mid-morning snack.
2. Provide many opportunities to try new foods.
Never force your child to try something. If a food items is at first rejected, reintroduce it in a few weeks. Serve an item up a few different ways and with various textures: mashed, cubed, etc . Nothing surprised me more when my son all of a sudden decided he liked grapes. It wasn’t anything I did, save bringing them repeatedly to the table; his tastes (or mindset) just changed overnight.
3. Don’t underestimate disguise.
I won’t lie to my children about what I am serving them, but I also abide by the ‘What they don’t know won’t kill them’ principle. Take for example, the Shepherd’s Pie recipe that I have included below, a dish my boys, ages 4 and 2, normally eat without complaint. Without fanfare -or even a mention- I substituted a creamy cauliflower purée for potatoes and no one noticed a thing.
4. Be the role model for your children.
I cannot emphasize this enough. It used to be OK for me to push aside my nearly finished dinner and reach for dessert—until my four-year-old pointed it out. Children won’t naturally gravitate toward natural, healthy foods; it’s up to you, the parents, to set the example.
5. The Blender is your friend.
Most kids will eat almost anything disguised as a Smoothie. My simple smoothies consist of nothing more than fruit & plain yogurt. This is a great way to get some extra fruit in their diet, and a few servings of low-fat dairy as well.
With all the options on the yogurt shelf of the supermarket, plain is always best. Some of the other varieties can have up to 7 teaspoons of sugar per serving! Perhaps OK for an occasional after-dinner dessert, but not necessary if you are planning on blending it up with fruit.
Tip: Keep 1-inch cubes of peeled banana on hand in the freezer for a natural sweetener for smoothies.
6. Allow for grazing.
Keep healthy snacks around for quick handouts, but don’t allow them to snack close to dinner time. Raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, cheese are all good options. When cooking with kids, let them taste and nibble during the prep time and encourage them to try new things.
7. Keep some healthy quick options available.
Surprise! Neither Jack nor Jane loved the Salmon Wellington you lovingly prepared for dinner. By keeping some healthy quick options on hand, your child doesn’t have to miss out on a square meal. I’ll have a post coming soon with some of my solutions.
Tip: Be firm about your child at least tasting one bite. Even though he’s already tasted with his eyes and declined, doesn’t mean that he won’t like the taste on his tongue.
8. Choose the best ingredients for the food your kids DO love.
Is your pre-schooler on a P.B.J kick? Then provide him with whole grain bread, all-natural peanut butter and sugar-free jam. You may not be able to control his likes and dislikes, but you can ensure the food he does consume is whole, natural and the very best for him.
Power struggles still occur daily around my table and many a dinner gets derailed. It helps to remember that progress, although sometimes imperceptible, IS being made.
This month on Simple Bites we’ll be looking at the trials and triumphs of kids and nutrition.
You’ll hear from real moms who are working to serve their children the best and how they deal with the pickiness factor. We’ll offer practical solutions on how to incorporate more veggies and serve balanced meals whether your children be just starting solids or full-fledged carnivores.
Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée
- 2 lbs organic ground beef, or a mixture of ground beef and veal
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper
- 1 tomato, chopped or 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 large Cauliflower
- 2 Tablespoons cream
- 3 cups sweet corn, fresh if possible
- paprika, to garnish
Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened, about three minutes. Add beef and/or veal and sear the meat over medium-high heat, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon.
Add chopped garlic, cumin, oregano, tomato or ketchup, vinegar and combine well. Cook for ten minutes on medium, stirring often, until evenly browned. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil while you cut the cauliflower into large florets. Season water with 1 teaspoon salt and add cauliflower. Cook cauliflower until quite soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and drain.
Purée cauliflower in a blender until smooth, adding a little cream to assist in the process. Season with salt and pepper and a fine grating of fresh nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a casserole dish, spread beef mixture evenly over the bottom. Scatter corn kernels over the meat. Using a flexible spatula, spread cauliflower purée over the top of the corn. Smooth to cover. Dust with paprika and bake 30- 40 minutes until heated through.
Dot with butter and serve. To your kids.
There are a lot of opinions on the subject of picky eaters. Feel free to share yours! Tips and encouragements are most welcome.