Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater: Part 2

This is a guest post by Jill Exman Tedlock.  Read Part 1 here!

What do I feed my kid?

We follow Kids Eat in Color‘s recommendation of feeding kids exactly what adults are served.  Kids Eat in Color toes a pretty hard line: Kids eat “adult food”.

In our house, we serve both things the adults love and things the kids love.  I try and serve kid classics and comfort foods about once a week–and my husband and I eat that, too.

If I am serving things that are more of a stretch for my child, I put something I’m sure she will like on the table, offering it just like I do the other food.  We have a “little of everything” rule.  My parents did this when I was a kid.  The difference here is: She has to have it on her plate.  I don’t express any opinion on what she should put into her mouth.  I only praise for what goes in and say nothing about what does not.

Now for the part you all are wondering:

How do I get her to eat things that she previously would not?

I have three important strategies: Food involvement, preparing food together, and exposure!Toddler studying a lime, at a table filled with fresh produce

Food involvement means getting your kids involved in food aside from eating it.

  • Talk about your shopping list and meal planning.
  • Ask them what they want to eat, and show them what ingredients go into that dish.
  • Take them grocery shopping.  Ask them to pick out a certain number of an item in the store.  My daughter loves bell peppers and always picks them.  She’ll always try a bite if the food involves bell peppers!
  • Help them design a meal around the item they picked: “How about stuffed peppers?  Would you like to use rice or quinoa in them?  Ground beef or sausage?”
  • When you get home from shopping, have them help put things away.  Talk about where things go and why.

Preparing food together might sound difficult when your child is so young, but there are ways to make it work!

Use a stool, chair, or tower so your child can reach the counter, and let them mix ingredients while you do the measuring.  Or wipe down the floor and make cookies sitting down there!

When you’re doing something they can’t directly help with, let them sit on the counter and watch.  It’s interesting, and they’ll start picking up on techniques they can use later!

Make hummus, mash potatoes, assemble tacos, and so on, together.  Let them be creative.

Becca notes: The more coordinated and attentive your child is, the earlier you can start teaching how to use heat and knives safely.  Nicholas could work effectively with a paring knife (small but sharp!) by the time he turned 3, but for Lydia at that age we only allowed a butter knife for cutting soft foods like bread or canned fruit.  She’s 5 1/2 now and able to use a sharp knife very competently.  She recently cut up all the mushrooms for our dinner!  It can be hard to watch her do things like this, thinking of how it could go wrong . . . but she’s really motivated not to hurt herself, and her excitement about helping makes her much more likely to eat the meal!Five-year-old slicing mushrooms with paring knife

Exposure means: The more they see it, the more normal it gets.  Just keep serving a food, and with time they will accept it as a normal thing people eat, which makes it more likely that they’ll eat it themselves.

A note on spicy

She says “It’s Spicy!”  I do not assume that means she doesn’t like it.  Spicy is a fact, not an opinion.  I wait for her to decide how she feels about it . . . and she often goes back for more!

In American culture, “kid foods” are bland, but most of the world serves kids things that are spicy.  Don’t fall into the trap of offering only bland foods to kids!  You might be missing the flavor that will hook your kid on healthy food!

Becca notes: This is so important!  Both of my kids liked most types of “spicy” from an early age.  In particular, there is scientific evidence that babies readily accept flavors their mothers ate frequently while pregnant and breastfeeding, so it’s naturally easy to get your kid to like the foods you like–at least some of them.

Just be prepared to give your baby a big drink of water after every bite or two of spicy food.  The knowledge that drinking water will make your tongue stop burning does not come automatically–teach your child by holding her water cup to her mouth whenever she looks a little upset about the spiciness!

A note on “hangry”

We’ve all experienced the horrible feeling of being so hungry that we just hate everything: hungry+angry=hangry.

My hangry kid does not try new things.  Prime the pump: Give kiddo something simple that they like, just a small portion, to calm the initial hunger.  Don’t overwhelm the plate with new things, or they will focus on the challenging food and be overwhelmed by it.

This is solely based on observation of my own child.  However, I have taken note of something Kelsy of Hite Nutrition said when she did a shopping trip with Amy of Balanced Ames on Instagram.  She was talking about pregnancy nutrition, but it works for my kid, too:

A snack should have 2 or more macro-nutrients in it: protein, fat, carbohydrate.  Having at least 2 macro-nutrients will keep you/your kid feeling full longer.  This will help keep hangry feelings at bay!

My daughter’s fave snacks are apples & PB, chips/carrots & hummus, and cheese & crackers.  Each of these has all three macro-nutrients!!  You see, even two-year-olds are very intelligent about what their bodies need.

Coming soon: How food chaining works to increase acceptance of new foods!

Visit Hearth & Soul and Reader Tip Tuesday for more great tips!

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