Breaking The Picky Eating Barrier

Many of you have had moments where your little one has been picky, fussy, irritable, and not cooperative when it comes to eating.  Before you start to feel irritated and before you start comparing your little one to the world of others, take a step back.  We’ve all been quick to judge our kids of being picky eaters. But… are they really? We’ve all had bad days where we’re not in the mood to eat what’s in front of us or days where our eyes seem bigger than our stomachs.  So before you start feeling emotional or anxious, here are some tips to help bypass picky eating.

1. Create a “food” connection

A recent stay-cation brought this to my attention when my son ate potato based patties in the shape of a smiley face.  He ended up eating three smiley faces, and spent hours after talking about them.  I realize that if I could employ this creativity towards other foods, he may enjoy them as well.  For example, try connecting the menu to one of your child’s interests.  Do they like super heroes? If so, try suggesting the food in front of your little one is the same food that Superman, Spiderman, and Batman eat.  Children love elaborate stories with animation and adventure and all the more if they can connect personally! The goal is to at least try the offered foods.

2.What kind of food is favored?

Does your child like soups? If so, let them enjoy a variety of soups that include grains, legumes, meat and vegetables.  Does your kid prefer cheese on everything? That’s OK.  Look for recipes incorporating vegetables with cheese such as a baked sweet potato topped with broccoli and cheddar.  Remember there’s no right or wrong.  You just want to offer them foods that they could accept visually.  Does your kid like only a few specific foods? Try serving them in different ways. If they like penne pasta, you could bake it, add it to a soup, or boil and serve accordingly.

3. Let your kids be in charge 

Encourage role play.  Sometimes kids like to be the ones in charge.  When I role play with my son, I sometimes act like he does and he laughs and realizes when he doesn’t even want to try.  Aside from role playing, let them play chef and try to feed their stuffed animals or make you “make believe” foods so that they’re building a relationship with food and it’s perceived as fun, entertaining and playful.

4. Don’t Force

Try to not push your child to eating something they’re just not in the mood for and keep refusing.  It’s not going to be a pretty picture and it will just make you have negative emotions.  While encouraging a variety of foods is the best way to go, we have to accept if certain foods in certain forms just don’t seem to work.  This doesn’t mean give up, but instead it just means take a break and reintroduce it in a different way at a later time. We want eating to be a pleasant experience and the best way is by keeping the emotions and relationship with food a positive one.

5. Avoid Bribery

Eating food shouldn’t be associated with a reward.  The mealtime is about spending time with each other as a family and talking about meaningful things.  Avoid bribing your kids or promising them rewards or gifts for cleaning up their plate.  An important rule in developing a positive relationship with food is to self-regulate.  It is your job to offer a wholesome and nutritious variety to your kids but it’s their job to feed themselves accordingly.   If you find that they’re eating less than usual, try to offer them something light before sleep i.e. glass of milk, small piece of fruit, a healthier baked item.

The point is that we shouldn’t be quick to judge our kids as picky eaters.  Instead, we should try to see things from their perspective, and while that’s easier said than done — it just means that there’s more to it than assuming their picky because of refusal. Have you experienced this with your kids? If so, we’d love to hear how you handled it.  We love when the #GrowUpYummy community shares real life experiences.