Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Picky Eaters – What’s a Parent To Do?

Many moms have asked me for suggestions on how to handle their picky eaters (children, not husbands!) They also ask if I feed my kids what we are eating or if I prepare something different for them. I have always stuck to my guns and served the same meal, believing that if they are truly hungry, they will at least try what I have made, if not find out that they just added a new favorite to their list. I remember watching a TV show where a mother of eight exclaimed, "I am not a short-order cook! I make one meal and one meal only!"

Now that my kids are almost three and five, I know when they try something and really don't like it - at that point, I congratulate them for giving it a try then offer them one option as an alternative, in addition to a fruit or vegetable. I believe this has taught my children many things: 

  1. Don't knock something until you've tried it (this concept covers many planes).
  2. Taking risks opens up new worlds, even at the kitchen table.
  3. Given too many options, they are less likely be satisfied with just one or two.
  4. When we go out to eat or to a friend's house, they will most always be happy with what is served.
  5. Mommy or Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, probably do not have the time or energy to prepare separate meals.
  6. There are foods that taste better than America's staples: hot dogs, mac and cheese, and chicken fingers.

Some may be thinking, "But I've tried, really I have!" Keep on. Persevere. Kids will eventually eat what we serve them, and what they see us eating. Start with a new meal or food one night a week, then increase to two, then three. Below are some food ideas that can help you transition into a more "adult version" of the same meal. Remember, as cumbersome as it can potentially be, let your kids or grand-kids help you make it (or any meal for that matter) - when a child is involved in the preparation, they are much more likely to eat it.

  • Homemade pizza with their choice of one or two veggies and a meat. (When I was growing up, we made our own pizzas - my mom offered bowls of topping choices and we had to choose one from each category - cheese, veggie, meat. Our friend's knew when they came over it would be "make your own pizza night!")
  • Fresh parmesan-breaded tilapia or other mild fish
  • Potatoes, cubed and oven toasted
  • 'Egg in the Hole' - cut a hole in a piece of bread and crack the egg into it
  • Whole wheat wraps rolled and baked with tomato sauce, cheese, and shredded peppers
  • Oatmeal with a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips (dark is preferable) and blueberries
  • Peanut/almond butter spread on pancakes or waffles

One last tip: make sure morning or afternoon snacks are scheduled at least two hours before a meal. This will ensure your child is hungry and ready to eat, and he/she will be more likely to eat what you lovingly prepare for them! Ultimately, every child (especially between the ages of 2-5), will go through a picky stage but if you refuse to mentally label them as a "picky eater" and persevere in serving new and healthy foods, they will come around - even though they may be 20 before they do!

Here are a few helpful articles on the subject of picky eaters:

Picky Eaters? They Get It From You

How To Handle A Picky Eater

Tips for Dealing With a Picky Eater

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Take Action or Let Go?

"Take action on a problem you can control, let go of problems you can't control."

I heard this this weekend at a training I was at, and very much appreciated the reminder. I stopped to think about what this means for me at this moment. What are things I am stressing about right now that are out of my control (really) or ability to change, and what in my daily life do I need to take action on to regain balance, perspective, focus (or sanity!)?

Easier said than done, perhaps. But well worth 5 minutes to contemplate.



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