Author: Healthi coach, Brianna Newton
As a mom, my main job is to make sure I keep my kids safe and healthy. When you have three kids under four years old, that definitely falls under the “easier said than done” category! The worry starts early, doesn’t it? Worrying about food allergies, proper portion sizes for their age, balancing their nutrition. I have BEEN there.
No matter where you find yourself today in terms of your kids’ diet, chances are you truly have been doing the best you can and it’s also not too late to improve. Bonus: making these whole family changes with your nutrition helps YOU stay on track, too.
My Picky Eaters
As I mentioned, I have three feral toddlers at home with a wide range of food pickiness. My eldest started as an excellent eater but then mama went and got pregnant with TWINS. Y’all, it was all downhill from there. But then when my twins turned one year old, I started focusing on my own health journey and began losing weight with Healthi. I was determined to change the course of my kids’ nutrition for the better of my whole family. Now my girls are phenomenal eaters with only the occasional toddler tantrum about certain foods. My son has also come a long way, often times trying foods because he sees his sisters’ trying foods! Thank God for positive peer pressure 🙂
It’s Never Too Late
It’s never too late to start making better choices for your kid’s nutrition. And just like our own health journeys, it shouldn’t be a cold turkey, smack in the face type of transition. Start by making small changes that everyone can cope with and work your way towards the larger goal, one small milestone at a time. For me, my first step was choosing which snacks I absolutely should not ever buy again (aka Doritos). Then I started searching for healthier alternatives and replaced the snacks in our house one by one. I find it much easier to change snacking habits than meal habits, so that may be a good place to start. Then maybe your next smaller milestone goal could be adding one healthy element to one meal, not trying to switch out an entire meal or all of your meals at once.
Short Order Chef vs. Kitchen Sergeant
You’ve probably seen your friends say things like “I’m not a short order chef” or “My kids will eat what I make”. I can definitely understand and respect the sentiment, it’s just not how I approach it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have boundaries when it comes to mealtime, especially now that my kids are getting older and can understand more. I fall almost directly in the middle between short order chef and kitchen sergeant.
My one twin will eat anything I put on her plate, the other twin will eat some of what I put on her plate, and my son almost never eats what we have for family dinner. While I don’t cook elaborate alternatives for my son, I do make sure I have easy, quick alternatives on hand at all times. For example, he loves a good bagel with cream cheese, so I always have bagels and high protein cream cheese around. He’s usually game for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I’m usually game to make one. I know he likes cheese, cheese for dinner then! My pediatrician once told me, you can’t look at what your toddler is eating in a 24 hour period and judge his diet based on that. Look at what he’s eating over a 3-5 day period and if his diet is generally balanced, then you’re doing a great job.
Outwit Your Picky Eater
My go to blog for solid medical advice in regards to my kids is TwoPedsInAPod.org written by pediatricians from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They have some amazing articles about picky eaters, and the list below is from this post here! Below you’ll find 12 ways to “outwit” your picky eater. Some of these may work for your current situation and some may not. Either way, these are great tools to stash away in your back pocket for future use!
1. Never let them know you care about what they eat– “Talk about the day, not about the food on the table”.
2. Let them help cook– wash produce, mix, pour, measure.
3. Let them dip their food– salad dressing, applesauce, ketchup.
4. Let them pick their own food– gardening, grocery shopping, give two healthy choices at snack time (Do you want apple slices or grapes?)
5. Offer them foods that you don’t like– THEY may actually like it!
6. Use nutritional foods in recipes they already like– veggies in meatballs, squash in mac & cheese, Greek yogurt in a smoothie.
7. Continue to offer foods even if they are refused– don’t force feed, could take 20-30 exposures before trying!
8. Hunger is the best sauce– avoid “empty” snacks, offer wholesome/filling options when hungry.
9. It is okay to repeat similar meals day after day as long as they are nutritious- toddlers prefer predictability.
10. Turn off the TV (this one is new for our family!) – one of the best ways to help them grow up with healthy eating habits is to practice mindfulness while you eat!
11. Do not become a “short order” chef– However, it is OK to have some non-cook, nutrition back up meals (PB&J).
12. You can give your child a pediatric multivitamin– it’s not “giving up”, it’s peace of mind.
The Big Picture
Raising kids is messy. Trying to feed them is usually even more messy. In the same way that we need to show ourselves grace on our own health journey, we need to show ourselves grace when it comes to feeding our kids. When you go to bed at night, you need to remember the big picture. How is their eating overall? How is their health overall? Don’t focus on individual meals, individual days. If your child goes beyond what you believe is a normal level of picky eating or if you’re not sure if what you’re seeing is developmentally appropriate, speak with your pediatrician. If your kids are like mine, they are just going through the normal toddler motions of running you completely ragged 🙂 Take a deep breath, Pinterest some kid friendly recipes, and keep trying. Exposure is key and they won’t be this picky forever!