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[Guest Post] How to Stop Picky Eaters and the Food Wars

Thursday, April 19, 2012

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How to Stop Picky Eaters and the Food Wars 
by Kelley Johnsen 

One of the top phrases I hear a lot is, "my kids are such picky eaters". You are not alone. Many parents battle the food wars with kids everyday. The meals consist of chicken nuggets, hotdogs, and macaroni & cheese. I understand this, because my first born was very similar. One thing you can take comfort in is that all kids enjoy these foods, even the healthy eaters. Processed foods are made in a way to be easy on the taste buds and have them coming back for more. I would like to help you take the food wars out of the house and keep it on TV, where it belongs. Kids will let you know if they don't like something. Most will look at their food and decide they hate it before ever tasting it. I know this from experience. I have one of those picky eaters and know your struggle. First know that changing the meal plans can be difficult at times, but stay positive and strong. You are giving your child an inheritance of good health and better eating habits.

Make changes gradual, replacing an item of grocery a week.
  • First start by replacing your white and bleach flour product with whole grain and wheat. White flours have been stripped of their fiber and beneficial vitamins. Some have nutrients have been added back in as a synthetic form (enriched) but these are harsh on the digestive system.  
  • This can be a gradual change and not stress over every meal with the family. Once you replace an item don't go backwards. You can try other whole breads, flours, and recipes to get the right choice, but don't revert back to the white flours. 
  • Then move onto your pastas, peanut butters, rice, and on. When you make a healthier alternative change weekly, kids forget about the item they changed a couple weeks back and forget they dislike it. You also, wont have an entire pantry and fridge of foods they refuse to eat from grocery day. Gradual with kids is key! 
  • While changing try to focus on one meal at a time. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you are breaking your nighttime fast. Make your first week's focused meal breakfast choices. Whole grain cereals, yogurts, granola, fruits, toast, and eggs. Don't even touch lunches and dinners until its that schedules week. 
Be creative 
  • Presentation plays a huge role here. Kids judge an item by appearance as to whether they will eat it or not. 
  • Bright colors are pleasing to the eye, so think of the rainbow when you make the plates. Sandwich, blueberries, carrots, and broccoli. 
  • Try cutting shapes into your foods. When starting with wheat bread I would cut small sandwiches with cookie cutters to make it fun for them. You sometimes waste a little, but I would keep the left extras to make bread crumbs for meals to come. Waste not want not. 
  • I love Bentos! You can get a lot of wonderful ideas from their Facebook page to give you healthy creativity!
Tips for getting your kids to eat what you put on the table!!! 
  • Set the example. Eat with your kids and let them see that you eat these foods too. 
  • Remember the changes are gradual. All at once may be too much for them to deal with. You will have mutiny! 
  • Don't offer unhealthy foods, try to keep them out of the house to prevent temptation. 
  • Be consistent in your goals and menu. Once you decide to clean your diets, don't give them some junk food and some healthy. Once their taste buds change, they don't ask for the other stuff. 
  • Start with small portions of new meals and dishes. This way it is not overwhelming and they can try with no endless pile of something scary in front of them. 
  • Get them around other kids who eat healthy. Kids like to copy other kids especially if they see them happy about it. 
  • Provide healthy alternatives for snack foods for them at parties and social activities. My kids don't mind at all. They usually let me know what they would like to share on these days. 
  • Don't feel like all is lost when they like only two things. They will learn to expand their tastes. Remember it is a gradual process. Continue to offer the foods as if it is a normal thing. Think long term and not next month and you will be less stressed over the process. 
  • When they ask for snacks offer them fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grain breads with peanut butter, humus, yogurt, and the like. Keep it simple and have these items ready to enjoy. 
  • Get your kids involved. Make little score sheets to rate a meal, snack, or item. Have them suggest what they would like with it. Also, ask them what do they want their new fruit or vegetable of the week to be. If its their choice they will take ownership of the food. 
  • A standing phrase in our house is, "try everything". I can't count how many times they have turned up their nose at a new dish. Once we started to have the rule, try everything, they usually end up cleaning their plates surprised they enjoyed it. 
  • Sneak in your vegetables. I like to grind and puree vegetables that are difficult for them to enjoy into soups, sauces, and casseroles. When it is small enough that they can't recognize it they will go on taste. 
  • Talk to your kids about the reason we are eating healthy. To have less time being sick, to help our bodies grow like plants strong and colorful. 
  • Most important have fun and stay positive. If they see you are excited about it they will be also. If you are unsure and doom and gloom, they will be too. Kids copy the feelings and behaviors around them. 
  • Have fun dips to eat with the vegetables and fruits. I love to mix yogurt and peanut butter which is great for most fruits and veggies. Use ranch, humus, yogurt, peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter and more. Kids like variety.
As a Certified Nutrition Counselor and busy mom of four Kelley knows how food benefits the family wellness. She has a great passion for food and the effects it has on the body, both inside and out. Everything you eat and do not eat has a profound effect in hair, colon, eyes, energy, and more. Make great choices today for a better life for you and your family. Kelley blogs at Kelley's Passion for Nutrition. Also check out her Facebook Fan Page and Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe.

4 comments:

Mrs. Pancakes said...

Awesome suggestions...my goddaughter is a picky eater but her mom is a picky eater too so i am not surprised kids follow examples!

Maureen Sklaroff said...

These are great suggestions! I wish I had this list 15 years ago when I was fighting my picky eaters, trying to get them to eat anything that wasn't white. Fortunately, my only child that is not a teen right now loves healthy food! I did not do anything differently with her, it was just how she was born. The one thing I have to point out is that with autistic kids, none of these may work. My oldest, aged 20, is on the spectrum and only eats about 12 foods regularly. As an adult, he has learned and absorbed enough about nutrition that he has started trying new foods occasionally (just about gave me a heart attack when he did this the first time). So now he eats 12 different foods instead of 10.

Kim said...

Great tips. We have a picky eater too and I've used some of these ideas. I agree about changing the whites to browns and we usually luck out at breakfast and lunch -can get healthy food into him. Dinner is our work in progress.

keyalus said...

Thank you for these ideas. My child enjoys very few things and is often unwilling to try new things. He eats more variety at school (peer pressure maybe?) but doesn't do that at home. I think the creativity part might help me out at home.

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