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Wednesday's with Whitney

How do I get my super picky eater to get enough nutrients?

Cereal, PB&J and mac n cheese, cereal, PB&J and chicken nuggets throw in the occasional applesauce and carrots sticks and there you have it, the stand-by menu requested by many of our youth. The struggle is real while juggling a million other tasks and responsibilities. When the list of foods your kids will eat is only a fraction of the list they will not eat, it is hard not to wonder if they are getting all the nutrients they need. Here are some tips and tricks to help ease your worrying mind.

With health in mind:

Did you know it often takes up to 20 times of trying a certain food for us to realize it might not be so bad? Yes, that sounds like a lot of trials. However, knowing that repeat exposures increase the likelihood that your child (or significant other) may come around to a food is very encouraging.

Did you know that your children are more likely to eat foods that they see you eating? We know the research shows that family meals are hugely beneficial for our families. It is also key for parents to role-model what eating a balanced meal looks like. It can be reassuring to a child to not only be eating next to someone they look up to but also sharing the same foods. Another important note is that if they hear you categorizing foods as “good’ or “bad” they are likely to do the same and could create a poor relationship with those “bad” foods.

Do you often feel like a special-order cook? Making a different meal for each family member…Save yourself time and frustration by creating a menu that overlaps foods for everyone. Aim to offer at least one item you know each family member likes (that way you know no one will go completely hungry). John likes green beans, Sally likes potatoes and Wendy will eat the chicken. Kids are also more likely to try a new or “disliked” food when it is paired with something they do like. When children know that those are the only options, they may be more likely to eat what is offered. When they know you will whip up something they prefer, do you blame them for refusing what is offered? *Easier said than done, I know but…food for thought here. *

Some parents find success in adding fruits and vegetables to foods like pancake batters, smoothies, brownies etc. This can be a sticky situation when your child realizes what has been added without their stamp of approval. I usually recommend being as up front with your recipes as possible, if they ask.

Bottom line, your child is likely getting enough nutrients to grow and thrive despite their limited menu. The more positivity we can surround our food environments with, the better. As Ellyn Satter explains, it is the parent who is responsible for what foods are available, when they are available and where and the child’s responsibility to determine how much and whether they eat.

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