Thursday, July 3, 2008

Picky! Picky! Picky!

Kids are funny about what they choose to put in their mouths. They have no problem sampling dirt or Play-doh but won't touch the delicious casserole you spent an hour preparing. My daughter's favorite food was chicken pot pie for a couple weeks and now she won't even take a bite. My boys are great eaters and will eat just about anything you put in front of them (or steal it from you if it wasn't put in front of them). My daughter, on the other hand, is very particular about what she'll eat. And of course her preferences change week to week. So what's a mom to do? There has to be some balance between making their favorites and putting your foot down. On one hand I think, "Deal with it, kid. You eat this or you skip dinner." Then I think, "wait a minute, as an adult there are foods I don't like and don't eat. Shouldn't she be allowed to have some choice." So, here's "Dealing with picky eaters according to Gina- random thoughts on kids eating habits."

One thing to consider when it comes to eating is that it's not just about taste, it's about texture. Maybe it isn't really the taste that offends your child, but the texture. I love yogurt but I can't handle strawberry or blueberry chunks in my creamy snack. I do love the flavor though if I can find smooth and creamy versions. Kids can be quite finicky about how something feels. Maybe the spaghetti sauce is too chunky, the squash too slimy, the onions too squishy. Try preparing things different or throwing a portion into the blender/food processor for a more consistent texture. Temperature plays a role too and may need to be adapted for younger eaters.

One big obstacle is finding ways to get your kids to eat their veggies. Carrot sticks and "ants on a log" (celery with pb and raisins) are great snacks. As a kid I loved frozen peas (just run them under hot water til separated). I use to thaw some frozen peas and carrots to give to my son. We would talk about the shapes and bounce the "balls" into his mouth. Tell your child to pretend to be a giant and eat the "trees" (broccoli). Try adding vegetables to their favorite dishes. My daughter loves alfredo sauce with peas and corn. Or food process the veggies and add to a sauce (hee hee, they'll never know). My mom adds spinach to her delicious smoothies.

Encourage them to keep trying new foods. Even if they didn't like it before they may grow into it. I've started a rule that you have to try at least one bite of everything on your plate and you can't whine and say it's yucky. I also give my kids small portions of everything and they have to clean their plate before they can have more of anything. You can take your child grocery shopping with you and let them pick out a new food to try from the produce section.

Give them healthy choices. If you have good food available and let them choose they'll learn good habits. Talk about "sometimes" (cookies) and "anytime" food (apple). If you're like me you may have to remind yourself of this often.

You can make it a fun, learning experience by talking about shapes, colors, counting, grouping, etc. My sister-in-law recommended talking about eating a variety of colors and reviewing what colors they've eaten. Read "Pinkalicious" to talk about what happens when you eat too much of one color.

Post your comment to tell us what you do to help your kids eat better! Don't be modest, if you have a good idea, share. And remember, even small and simple thoughts can help.

5 comments:

lindy cannon said...

My son is a big eater but only when it's something he likes. Figuring out what he likes "today" or even "right now" can be tricky. I've learned to be flexible. For example, he had a hot dog and sippy cup of milk for breakfast. This was after he refused to eat his breakfast foods. I figured that he does need the protein. As long as I could get some fruit and whole grains into him later we were ok. He eats often enough that I have more then one shot at getting healthy foods into his little body. If one of his meals is less then nutricious I make up for it with a healthy snack. I also try to think outside the box. For example, he loves popcorn and it is a good source of fiber. So if he doesn't want mashed potatoes or pasta with his meal I give him a handful of popcorn. He gets tired of the same snacks so I try to rotate often. I give him whole grain bread and he loves it served warm with butter (and sometimes jam). Chris tells me it's healthier plain but Carson is only two and can eat a little fat. I say let him enjoy it while he can. Besides, I like butter and jam. I think most things are ok in moderation. Eating should be healthy (or mostly healthy) but also fun. I try to avoid having meals turn into battles (even with a picky two-year old).
-Lindy


green beans so I serve them whenever I feel

shayla said...

This is my biggest challenge as a mom. It has caused so much frustration. My child won't eat anything except his "usuals". I give him a multivitamin because I know he's probably not getting what he needs. This is either a phase he's going through or I didn't do things right from day one. Probably the latter. Grrr.

Jodi Jean said...

ahhhh help me with more tips ... it seems like i get in a rut of what i feed aidan (especially breakfast and lunch). poor kid.

he definately is a texture kid, he loves applesauce but will immediately spit out a chunk of apple. i try all the time ... UGH!
and i cannot get him to eat rice

Tara L. said...

Great advice. Getting my daughter to eat is a daily challenge. My only tip is having her dip. She will eat anything if it is dipped in ranch dressing. Probably not the healthiest, but it does get her to eat her vegetables.

Megan Dougherty said...

My mother in law gave me the best cookbook last Christmas "Deceptively Delicious". It is fabulous! It is all about hiding those veggies in foods that your kids love. I have used it more on my husband because he is a pickier eater than Maddy and it works great! Just the other day I made homemade strawberry breakfast bars with Spinach in them. You couldn't taste the spinach.