Oh, picky little eaters. You are the kryptonite of health-minded moms everywhere. We wring our hands over every bite you (don’t) take, every mouthful you spit out. You drive us crazy. But because we love you, we forge on, looking for new ways to fill your little bodies with something (anything!) healthy.
Though it may not always feel like it, picky eating is really common, especially among toddlers and preschoolers. You are not alone. Here are six tried and true tricks for adding nutrition to your child’s diet without starting an all-out meal-time brawl:
- Think small: Can you get your picky eater to eat two, three or four bites of something? Well, that’s a great start. Consider serving small portions so that your child doesn’t feel daunted by the amount of food in front of him, and give him the opportunity to ask for more on his own.
- Get sneaky: If you have a very picky eater, you might already be an expert at the art of food camouflage. If not, consider hiding some grated zucchini in your spaghetti sauce, bits of fruit in pancakes, and beets or black beans in your brownies. (Check the internet for recipes.)
- Minimize distractions: As adults, eating in front of the TV can become mindless; your spoon hits the bottom of the somehow emptied bowl in what seems like just seconds, leaving you to wonder, “who ate my ice cream?!” But for kids, distractions can actually prevent quality eating. Turn off the TV and other electronics for meals, and whenever possible, sit down and eat together. This brings us to our next tip…
- Set the example: If your kids see you trying and eating new things on a regular basis, it should help reduce their anxiety about new foods, too.
- Drink up: Maybe your child is more than happy to consume anything out of a straw? In that case, consider making a smoothie for her. You can load it with all kinds of healthy, nutrient-rich foods including milk, yogurt, fruits & veggies, and nut butter.
If you don’t have time to get out the blender, try an Orgain Healthy Kids Organic Nutritional Shake. It tastes great and packs 8 grams of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals.
- Go dense: Whenever possible, offer your picky eater foods with a lot of nutrient density – or try adding a nutrient dense topper to something they’re already eating. It turns out the 1950’s classic of melted cheese over broccoli is actually a pretty solid snack or side dish.
Whatever your plan of attack, try to remember that picky eating is often a stage that passes with time. If you can fill your feeding arsenal with a few solid strategies in the meantime, chances are very good that both you and your child will come out on the other side happy and healthy. And hey, it just so happens that black bean brownies make excellent treats for grown-ups, too.