Dealing with picky eaters…
A picky eater in your home can cause all sorts of issues.
You have to make special meals for them,
You spend more time at McDonald’s than you prefer,
You’re worried your kid is going to get scurvy from their habitual diet of white buns and chicken nuggets,
You spend more money on groceries,
You have to throw out food,
And it creates a rift in your relationship.
You just want what’s best for your kid,
but don’t know how to get through to them without barking orders.
Well, turns out transforming a picky eater isn’t very complicated.
But not complicated.
It’s just a few simple things you can implement in your home,
In your behaviour,
And in your interactions with your kid
That can make all of the difference.
Poor childhood nutrition has been linked to behaviour issues, asthma, and frequent viral infections
And don’t forget that…
Childhood obesity becomes adult obesity
Unhealthy kids become unhealthy adults,
And those unhealthy adults have unhealthy kids…
And so continues the cycle.
“What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying”
As parents, you are the ones setting the example,
you are the ones picking the meals,
you are the ones buying the groceries.
So, issues with picky eating can usually be traced back to you.
But, it’s also quite empowering to know that picky eating can usually be managed by some simple changes that you make.
Coming of age…
As we mentioned, poor role modeling and a poor environment contribute to picky eating…
and that’s on you.
But, picky eating can also be an issue of autonomy and individuation.
As in, your kid is growing up and developing their own identity and they want to be involved in that process.
So, as you’ll see below, many of these issues can be mitigated by involving your kids in their own health.
Here are the top 10 rules for managing picky eaters:
1. Involve the picky eater in menu planning
Ask them which foods they like and why?
If they are stuck eating just a couple types of foods i.e. chicken fingers and fries, ask them if they would like to make their own homemade versions of these things.
You don’t have to be “perfect”,
Just aim for a little better.
If you start with chicken nuggets from Mcdonalds,
Progress to homemade chicken nuggets in panko,
Then progress to chicken nuggets in almond meal,
Then, over time, decrease the amount of coating.
Eventually, they’ll be gobbling up regular, every-day chicken thighs.
2. Involve the picky eater in grocery shopping
Again, picky eating is often an issue of autonomy and individuation,
so giving them choice helps cater to this need.
Have fun with it!
Make it a game where they have to find a purple vegetable
or 3 colours of fruits
or a grain that starts with the letter “Q” (Hmmm, I wonder what that could be…).
3. Involve the picky eater in meal preparation
This could be as simple as shucking corn,
Mashing up avocado for guacamole,
Setting the table,
Or snapping the ends off peas.
But, give them options and let them choose.
A kid will be more likely to eat something they helped prepare.
4. Do a kitchen make-over
Having healthy foods available and unhealthy foods unavailable helps shape the path for healthy eating.
If these foods aren’t around, then it becomes inconvenient to get them.
Having a bowl of fruit on the counter,
cut-up veggies in the fridge
and raw, mixed nuts in the cupboard make eating well easy and convenient.
Note: Don’t make this a big deal to the kid. Do the clean-out when they’re not around. You don’t want them to get the idea of “good” or “bad” foods that can lend itself to all-or-none thinking.
5. Try the fruit-first method
If a kid is asking for ice cream and you have it in the house,
tell them they can absolutely have some,
they just need to pick a fruit to eat before.
They may end up being satisfied by the fruit and forgetting about the ice cream.
6. Give kids time to like a new food
It may take about 10 exposures to a food for a kid to adopt it.
Give it time.
And try to introduce them painlessly…
Try homemade yam fries mixed in with potato fries.
Try quinoa mixed with rice,
Or even some dressing for raw veggies.
7. Sneak stuff into super shakes
Building on the last point, it’s pretty easy to sneak healthy stuff into a super-shake that tastes delicious.
Healthy fats in the form of almond butter – sure!
Spinach – you bet!
Fruits – yup!
Lean protein – you got it!
You can cut juices with water,
chocolate milk with milk,
And flavoured yogurt with plain yogurt.
These things aren’t the end of the world,
but they can mess up a kid’s food preferences
And their ability to detect hunger and fullness,
Try cutting these with lower-sugar versions or even water.
9. Model the behaviour you want your kid to follow
Again, you are the adult here.
You ultimately decide the meals you’ll have as a family,
The foods you bring into the house,
How fast and distracted you eat,
And the foods you put on your plate.
If you won’t eat vegetables, then your kid will see that behaviour as okay.
If all you eat is chicken nuggets, guess what?
Your kid will see this as normal too.
Take a look at your own eating behaviours before coming down too hard on your kid.
Ask your kid what foods they prefer and why.
Actively listen to their answers.
Make note of the foods they prefer and be sure to include them in meal planning.
The kid wants to make choices and they want to be heard.
Communication is key to all relationships,
but especially important with picky eaters.
Picky eaters are made, not born.
It is through a process of watching your behaviour,
Being surrounded by “unhealthy” food choices,
And the need for individuation and autonomy that kids slowly start to eat only chicken fingers,
And fruit juice.
You’re the adult here.
You control what comes into your house,
And you control your ability to give your kid choice when it comes to their health and nutrition.
A fat kid becomes a fat adult,
An unhealthy kid becomes an unhealthy adult.
Use the tips from this article to stop this vicious cycle.