Evidence-Based Tips to Help Your Picky Eater

Last week we talked to Allison Little, a picky eating dietitian, about starting her own private practice as an RD entrepreneur. If you missed that, be sure to read it here. Allison is passionate about child nutrition, especially when it comes to managing picky eating, and she so kindly agreed to collaborate with me on this week’s blog post (thanks Allison)!

Today we’re going to look at a 2015 review of the research on picky eating and offer alternative practices for any struggling parents of picky eaters to relieve stress at mealtimes and encourage kids to eat with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

Take Stress Off the Table

Many common behaviours of parents can actually perpetuate picky eating – pressuring kids to eat, negotiating, offering rewards, or making them eat everything on their plate. These practices, while coming from a place of care and good intentions, can cause mealtimes to be stressful for both parents and kids. Try some of these strategies instead:

  • Let your kids know that it’s okay to not like certain foods. If they spit out their veggies and respond with “eww that’s gross!” teach them to politely say “no thank you” and put the food to the side of their plate or quietly spit out the food into a napkin.

  • Instead of talking about your child’s eating behaviour, focus the conversation around topics that allow you to bond with your child such as school, hobbies, or friends.

  • No need to be a short order cook. You are in control of what food is served, when and where it is served. Offer one meal only for the whole family and include at least one food that you know your child likes.

  • Get your kids involved in meals by asking them if there is anything you can add to the meal to make it tastier like a dip, sauce, or sprinkle of cheese.

Don’t Give Up on Offering Veggies

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Adding veggies to familiar foods can be a great way to boost your child’s intake, but a common tactic is to disguise veggies in their meals, such as blending veggies into spaghetti sauce, which can ruin their trust and limit opportunities for them to become familiar with and accepting of these foods. Here are some strategies that might help your kid be more adventurous with veggies:

  • Take your kid to the grocery store or farmer’s market and ask them to choose a vegetable they want to try. Get them involved in preparing meals by tearing lettuce, adding chopped veggies to a pizza or salad, or taste testing as you cook.

  • Offer a rainbow of veggies that the kids can eat with their hands and get creative with your presentation. Add tasty dips on the side, use fun plates, and let kids try the foods at their own pace.

  • Continue to offer veggies even though your kids refuse them. Continued exposure can reduce their fear of unfamiliar foods. Try serving them at different meal times or in different dishes.

  • Eat your favourite veggies in front of your kids! They are always watching and learning from you, and if you don’t eat veggies, they won’t be too keen on them either.

For personalized help with feeding your kids, contact Allison Little.

Ryan Stallard