We want the best for our kids and feeding them wholesome, nutritious food is a high priority, but it can be beyond frustrating if your child is a picky eater. From coast to coast, lots of blood, sweat, and tears have been shed over broccoli.
Ideally, mealtimes should be relaxing, calm, and enjoyable… for everyone, including you, mom! I’m here to help you take the stress out of mealtimes and the pressure off of YOU!
Remember this, every meal will not be perfect 100% of the time. After all this is real life! Look at the big picture...the overall goal is to instill a healthy relationship with food. So when your baby is no longer a baby, they are equipped to make healthy food choices on their own (most of the time). Try out some of these tips to help your little ones develop that healthy relationship with food.
For more help with learning what to feed your family, nutritious dinners, making sure everyone gets enough protein, etc. join my Mommy Feeding Family 2.0.
Continue to offer foods over and over again. It’s common for a child not like a food the first time it’s offered to them (or even the second or third time). Don’t make the mistake of writing that food off as one they don’t like. Continue to reoffer the food, but don’t force it. If they continually turn up their nose, set it aside and try again another day.
This tends to be a hard mindset to get into, because it is the opposite way a lot of us were raised. “If you are good, we can go out for ice cream later” or “If you eat your broccoli, you can have dessert.” This puts dessert on a pedestal and creates a negative stigma on broccoli as something that you HAVE to eat in order to get what you want. It’s okay make dessert a “once in a while” treat in fact, it’s ideal! One tip is if tonight is dessert night in your house, serve the sweet on their plate alongside the rest of their dinner. If they eat it first, so be it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and they have a plate of nutritious foods at their fingertips.
I’m not above being sneaky. Hiding veggies in casseroles, smoothies, meatloaf… anything they will eat is great way get in extra servings of veggies. Yes, we want to teach them about healthy eating, but a few hidden veggies here and there never hurt anyone, especially if it lets you rest easy. Try adding cheese to the top of warm veggies. Using dips is a great idea too. You can use a yogurt dip for carrot sticks, hummus for sliced cucumbers, or a low-sugar ketchup for chicken and meats. I have a friend whose child will only eat green beans dipped in ketchup… whatever works, right?!
Avoid letting your child snack all day long. With set times for snacks and meals, they are more likely to come to the table hungry, which is what we want. This way they are more inclined to eat the meal that is served. Prepare one meal for the entire family and put at least one thing on their plate that you know they like. If your child expresses dislike for the meal, acknowledge it and move on. Ex: “I don’t like meatloaf!” Simply respond with “we are having meatloaf tonight. Everyone is eating meatloaf.” And move on.
Another tip is to limit milk consumption. Milk is filling, and if your child is drinking milk all day long, it’s common for them to have less of an appetite.
Rules were not made for mealtime. I strongly discourage the clean plate/happy plate rule. Instead let your child’s appetite guide how much they eat at a given time. If you force a meal or a snack, your good intentions may get lost, and become a power struggle between you and your toddler. However there is an exception. I encourage the one bite rule. Instead of an immediate “I don’t like it, I’m not eating it.” Your child should accept that they will taste everything even if it’s only one bite. Now remember to put a food item on their plate that they do like so you know they will eat something.
Don’t let mealtimes get the best of you. Remember the big picture is a not a perfect meal every meal, but to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food. This is done with patience (a lot of it), consistency, and leading by example. Continue to load your plate with high-quality protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables. They are always watching even if you think they aren’t.
Invite your children into the kitchen with you. Give them an age appropriate task like tearing lettuce for a salad, cracking eggs, chopping with a butter knife, etc. Let them choose a vegetable or a recipe for the week. They will be more likely to eat the meal if they had some involvement in preparing it.
Also involve them in plating their food. This gives the opportunity to make some decisions about their plate. Some children may be put off by too much food on their plate. Start with small portions, and give them the option to ask for more giving them an element of decision making.
Professional help may be needed in certain situations for a child that chokes often, will only eat one texture, will only eat foods in certain containers or in certain shapes, frequently spitting up after meals (in babies), etc. It never hurts to seek help from experienced professionals.
Below are a few dietitians I personally recommend who have been featured in Mommy Feeding Family.
Bottom line… Each child is different and what works for one may not work for all. You are the parent and you know your child, so do what works best for you, your child, and your family as a whole. It may take some time and trial and error to figure out what works, but stick with it!
Take a deep breath mama, you got this!
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