Tips for Picky Eaters
Adapted from Raising a Sensory Smart Child, by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L and Nancy Peske
- Don’t give up introducing new foods. It may take dozens of introductions before a child feels a food has become familiar enough to try it.
- Let your child have some control by letting him pick ONE new vegetable or ONE new fruit he would eventually like to be able to eat.
- Consider alternatives. A child who would NEVER, EVER eat a vegetable might love snacking on delicious, salty, crunchy green beans (see photo) or might love Dr. Prager’s Spinach pancake or sweet potato fries.
- Take baby steps: first the child’s job is to simply tolerate the food on her plate (not touching any other foods, if she insists), then she has to touch it to her mouth, then her tongue, then take a bite and chew (and spit out if necessary).
- Encourage exploration of textures and mixing textures (dipping foods in ketchup or salad dressing, mixing raisins and M&Ms into hot cereal, etc.).
- Consider varying the temperature of food. A child might try frozen vegetables for the novelty of it.
- Change regular foods slightly to build openness to new textures, shapes, and colors. Break graham crackers into 4 pieces instead of two, mix a little old fashioned peanut butter into the Skippy she usually eats.
- Don’t let the child drink too much milk or juice during the day, or snack on high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.
- Keep healthy, easy-to-prepare foods around: cheese sticks, frozen whole-grain waffles, baby carrot sticks, raisins, etc.
- Keep it real. Serve real fruit instead of fruit roll-ups. Instead of jelly, serve all-fruit spread.
- Instead of juice, serve water or at least watered-down juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1-6 drink no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice a day, children ages 7 to 18 should drink more than 8-12 ounces. Too much juice is associated with malnutrition, diarrhea, stomach problems, tooth decay, and obesity (kids graduate from sugary juice to sugary soda).
- Avoid giving your child caffeine, a “hidden” ingredient in cola, chocolate, hot cocoa, Mountain Dew, and certain medications such as Midol and Excedrin Migraine.
- Limit fatty foods. Instead of high-fat hot dogs (which also have carcinogenic nitrates), serve tofu dogs or turkey sausage. Instead of piling on high-fat bologna and salami on sandwiches, use a few slices of lower-fat turkey or chicken. Serve beans and rice or use organic tofu as a protein source instead of meat.
- Avoid fatty dairy products. Children older than age 2 do not need the extra fat in whole milk, so feel free to use skim or 1 percent. By age 5, a child should be consuming only 30 percent of her calories from fats. Also, too much milk can dampen the appetite and cause anemia. Use low-fat dairy products. Grate cheese instead of slicing it.
- Keep food and snack portions small to avoid overwhelming your child. A serving of protein should be about the size of your child’s fist. Pour out a small bowl of pretzels rather than hand over the entire bag.
- Use child-friendly plates, cups, bowls, and utensils to keep eating easy for small hands and fingers.
- Make it fun. A child may eat broccoli if you call them “dinosaur trees” and have his toy T-Rex eat them first.
- Keep eating a pleasant, social experience. Power struggles definitely do not help!
Hope your meals are happy!