I have four children. I have been blessed with two healthy eaters. They will try anything I put in front of them. They will seek out vegetables. They sit and eat whatever I put on their plate with little to no hesitation.
I also have two children that could live on the same three foods with no other options. The foods that they will eat are not always healthy and do not have the essential nutrients to help children grow strong. My younger child who is also one of my twins will have an absolute toddler meltdown if he does not like the food that is presented to him. I am talking meltdown of epic proportions full on blood curdling scream and flying food as he protests.
After many frustrating evenings of fighting with a picky toddler, sleepless nights because of hunger from refusing to eat, and feelings of failure with worry of failing at providing a wholesome meal for my child I started changing the ways we approached mealtime and food choices in general.
Let Them Have Options
If you find that your child is fighting you on the choices that you provide to them, let them have options. Let them help you pick out the menu if old enough. My twins are 21 months but can identify food that they like. I will get out two options and let them choose between the two. If there is an option that they are opposed to they make it very well known that it isn’t something they desire to eat at that snack or mealtime.
Have them help you plan the week’s menu. Offer suggestions for them to choose from. Take them to the store and let them choose a snack that they will eat and help to make healthy choices – apples, tangerines, grapes, carrots, etc.
Offer Small Portions
Children often become overwhelmed at mealtime when presented with a food that they do not like or have never tried it served in one large portion. They feel pressured to eat it. This can cause much distress, tantrums, and in turn stress on the parents. Start by offering small portions of a few different options to help introduce foods that you think they will like and encourage them to at least try it. Many families have a “no thank you” bite. You must try one bite before determining if you like something or not.
Sneak In Healthy Options
When you have a child with a limited variety of options that they will eat for you, have exhausted your options and yourself working to get them to eat something, you learn to get sneaky. There are ways to hide vegetables in foods to provide extra nutrients without your children even noticing. Some simple tricks are adding peppers or broccoli to spaghetti sauce, adding peppers and diced tomatoes to sloppy joes, or throw in a few carrots to a strawberry banana smoothie.
Set A Good Example
Growing up my mom hated tomatoes and mushrooms. She didn’t cook with them and we never ate them so I too hate them. My daughters love tomatoes. I never ate a cucumber or peppers until I was in college and I love them! Now as a mother I follow the rule of monkey see monkey do. I make sure that most of my snack and meal choices are healthy and I always offer vegetables and fruits to my family even if they are not my favorite.
Stay On Schedule
Routine, routine, routine. Our daily routine is set in stone. We do almost the same thing day in and day out and this includes meals and snacking. If you have a child that is a picky eater, do not offer snacks that will fill them up before a meal. Do not give a second snack immediately after a meal that they picked at or didn’t eat. By allowing them to fill up on foods that they choose you will encourage them to continue to be picky eaters. But, we also try not to go beyond our set and meal times and have them become over hungry either.
Maybe Your Child Is Just a Grazer
I don’t like to sit and eat large meals. I like to snack throughout the day. I eat several small meals spread out at specific. This got me thinking about my son and meal times. He is constantly snacking, but at mealtime he is not interested in eating. Meanwhile his twin sister will eat her food and try to steal his. After much thought I realized that he eats like me. With this in mine we make sure that he is given healthy snack options throughout the day.
The biggest piece of advice I have had to give myself with my picky eater is to pick your battles just like your day with twins in general. There are many nights that after I have exhausted all other options I will give my twins a good old fashioned peanut butter sandwich, a tangerine, and a cup of yogurt and call it a night and try again the next day.
Carrie English is a mother of four who lives North Central Pennsylvania along with her husband, Jason. Her children range from age 12 to her one year old toddler twins. She is a full-time working professional, sleep deprived lover of coffee, hugs, and her family. She credits her strength to her amazing family and her faith.
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