At some point in most children’s lives, they become a picky eater. Whether it’s the color, flavor, or texture of the offending foods, it can be very frustrating for a parent. Some days you may even wonder if your child will eat anything at all. In a preferred diet of solely potato chips and fruit snacks, what can you do to add a little variety to your child’s plate? Here’s some feeding a picky child tips…
First of all, realize that is normal child behavior! You are doing nothing wrong as a parent. Toddlers all go through a phase (of course it varies from child to child!) where they start getting a little selective about what they are eating. Something that they previously loved is now ‘icky’. All we can do as parents is keep offering a variety of healthy foods, and wait for our children to take a bite on their own time.
Sometimes you just need to sit out a variety of foods for your child to experiment with. Offer a small veggie or fruit tray with foods sliced into varying shapes. Use different textures: creamy avocados, crunchy and juicy apples, soft bananas. Thinly sliced carrots, fresh cucumber, and broccoli. Does your child like yogurt or peanut butter? Add some dips for your child to experiment with. Don’t be afraid to let them dip everything in ketchup or ranch dressing! The experimentation is part of their adventure!
What about meat?
Meat is often harder to add to a child’s diet than even vegetables. Offer finger-sized foods. Chicken and fish are generally kid friendly. Don’t be ashamed to bake some frozen breaded tenders and add to your kid’s plate. Boil an egg and cut it in half, or let them have it whole! Tofu is another protein and calorie dense food that we don’t often think about offering. Cut some tofu into cubes and cook/season it however your child would prefer it. They love eating the tiny little cubes, and most kids really enjoy the texture. Still struggling to convince your child to try? You could always prepare your own protein smoothie. Combine milk, greek yogurt, peanut butter, fruits, veggies, juices, and even egg protein or other acceptable protein powders to give your busy child a little bit of a nutrient boost during the day.
Some other ideas of foods to offer…
- Whole grain pastas, with and without sauces
- Cheese! String cheese, sticks, cubes, squares, slices!
- Celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter
- Breads of all shapes, sizes, and flavors
- Pancakes made with fruits (blueberry or pumpkin)
Shape it Up!
Offer your child a variety of shapes to choose from. Some kids like their sandwiches cut in half, some like them whole, some like them cut diagonally. Try using fun shaped cookie cutters to cut some foods with. Dinosaur or star shaped foods are much more fun! Slice vegetables in the shape of fries when you can, kids sometimes prefer the easily held shape of spears.
Let them play.
Don’t make a huge deal about their food. Ask them to try a bite, maybe have a few minutes of sit-down meal time, but let them play. Let them play with their food too! If they want to stack up their cheese cubes before sneaking a bite, let them do it. If they want to pretend their broccoli is a tree before tasting it, let them do that. They are only children for so long, and this period of fussiness and picky eating will pass.
Keep offering foods! Even if your child has turned down a food in the past, they will eventually become curious and try certain things. Don’t get discouraged, be consistent!