Goal one of the parent of a picky eater: Get child to eat. Goal two, which falls sometimes VERY far behind goal one is to get the child to eat something nutritious. I’m a dietitian and sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight.
Sometimes I offer Pop-Tarts instead of fruit and hot dogs instead of grass fed beef.
Why? Well for one I believe in balance and developing a healthy relationship with food, but also because I’m tired! I just want this kid to eat and she knows how to wear me down. So today, I’m stepping outside the box of the traditional picky eating advice and offering some alternative approaches.
Some Like it Hot
Textures and the sensory experience are a big thing to picky eaters, and just to developing toddlers in general. My picky eater doesn’t really like things cold or hot. She actually prefers room temperature. Gross right? I can use this to my advantage by removing this as a barrier for her trying something. For instance, if we are making a hot dish for dinner, I scoop hers out first, sometimes I even put it in the fridge to cool it down enough. I buy the ultra-pasteurized milk so that she can drink it at room temperature, and I offer leftovers right out of the fridge. Try experimenting with different temperatures. The sensory experiment doesn’t have to stop with their food though.
Picky eaters eat with their eyes
Do you ever make a recipe off Pinterest and wonder why yours doesn’t look like theirs? One of those reasons may be the extra time they put into the presentation, a garnish or a dollop of sour cream? Also the dishes that the food is served on play a big role in the presentation. Now my daughter is only 3 so we won’t be eating off Nana’s china anytime soon, but I have a stack of kid’s plates for her to pick from and often I let her pick her color, (if it’s clean it’s pretty much always purple,). This gives your child control and also helps the presentation. Keep in mind, that if they didn’t like something served on that plate previously they may remember that and decide they are going to refuse the new food before they even see you plate the food. If that is the case, try putting one of their always accepted foods on that plate to help them have a positive experience first, before dishing up a new food. You can also try different placemats or fun silverware too. Picky eaters often don’t like their foods to touch, so buy a plate that has a divider in it, or place a small bowl on the plate.
Incorporate Sensory Play
Try creating your own sensory play. As the parent of a picky eater it is easy to have lots of guilty feelings, like I did something wrong in how I fed her (her first food was a cucumber if that says anything). What we often don’t realize is that true picky eaters often have multiple reasons for not picking foods. One of those reasons may be their sensory development. I am all for letting kids experiment in the kitchen, watching you cook and prepare foods. That experience alone often works for picky eaters, but who says it has to stop at foods. Try creating your own sensory play tables exposing them to different textures and even temperatures. This gives your child a safe place to experiment with different textures.
For more picky eating tips watch my TV segment on Kansas City Live.