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Hints to Help your picky eater

Updated on October 3, 2011
This niece of mine does not have any problem with food!!
This niece of mine does not have any problem with food!!

I know how you feel

I have discovered through my young daughter just how hard it can be to feed your children. From buying the right groceries to your kids actually consuming them, it can become frustrating when you have a child who doesn't seem to enjoy it at all. My daughter flat out refused to eat anything but baby food until she was twelve months, and then it was almost impossible to get her to try anything new. I really don’t even know how I managed to get her to try Grilled Cheese or Chicken Nuggets. Yes, these simple things became very important in my life when I was so frustrated and worried about the nutrition she probably wasn't getting. I was so angry with myself for not preparing her food well enough even though I knew that she was a picky eater because her father is. We all know that if a child doesn't see her family eating the vegetables, is that child really going to want to eat it herself?

The list

There are quite a few helpful hints for the mothers looking for the best ways to feed their children a healthy, balanced meal, but what about the ones that have tried all of these with little or no success? Sometimes a picky eater will be that way no matter what. My daughter eats like my husband does, she seems to have exactly the same tastes as he does; genetics really does play a part in this, but if you are still concerned with your child’s eating habits, check out the seventeen tips listed at which gives them all in detail. Many of these are easy common sense kind of stuff, the things that you hear almost daily from other parents or experts are: package it (meaning make it look nice). If there is a lot of color and shapes, toddlers become more interested. I think that the best tip on this list is number nine: Share it. When young children eat with other children, I think they become braver. Peer pressure can sometimes be good! It seemed to work fairly well with my daughter when she was about one or two and still refused to even eat spaghetti, but when she got together for a nice meal at her grandparents with her slightly older cousin, she suddenly was interested more in food, and was more willing to try other things. As with a lot of other kids, she sometimes becomes fixated on other foods (cookies got me into a lot of trouble), but because she very rarely tries anything new, I at least know that she will eat something.

What I discovered through many trials

Learning how to feed my daughter a healthy meal was a challenge for me; I never really had to worry about my diet. One of the things I regret is that I was so worried about her eating solid food with hardly any teeth that I mostly fed her all baby food until twelve months. By that point she just enjoyed the baby food so much, she was loathe trying anything else. I do remember trying to give her potatoes at Thanksgiving and she promptly spit it out and turned her head away. So she didn't eat any meat until she started eating chicken nuggets, but only these. She still wouldn’t eat hamburgers, not even real chicken; it always has to be pre-packaged. I did get her to try peanut butter once, and decided quickly that that was not for her. I know, a child who doesn’t like peanut butter?? So what could I do? My doctor didn’t seem too concerned although he didn’t like how small she was as a baby.

I realized then that I had to be better about her food; I had to find another way. I learned about the different ways to get your child to eat better, but they were really more common sense information. For instance: I was told not to let her snack before a meal. I think everyone figures that out on their own although some people don’t realize that this includes drinks. Even water can fill you up, but you really have to be careful about the juice. A second source told me that I shouldn’t give her too much at once, but I had already gathered that her stomach was probably very tiny (I learned that when she was a newborn) but it is also important to not offer too many choices at the same time. My daughter has always stuck to a few foods for a little while, switching every few weeks or so, sometimes you have to give them what they are comfortable with eating. It is also helpful to only give them healthy food first. Don’t give them chips with fish sticks; they will just fill up on the chips. I use things like this as more of a reward even though another tip was to not punish or reward children for eating. I do agree with not punishing them because it just causes problems over something that should be enjoyed. Even though we give my daughter a “treat” when she does really well with her food, we usually will relent anyway. I have also been told that I should let her help in the kitchen which I am sure works great when she’s a little older ,but right now I don’t think she will know to not touch the stove; there doesn’t seem to be much healthy food that she could help with. I know that she thoroughly enjoys making cookies!

One of the tips I received was to hide veggies in the food. I started with her favorite grilled cheese and sprinkled tiny bits of broccoli into the middle. Well, this worked for a little while, but then she got smarter. I had to stop then because she refused to eat the sandwich. Recently I started giving it to her again, and she will eat the whole thing, and she knows that there’s broccoli in it! Now I am working on putting lunch meat, bacon or tomato in it.

Chicken Alfredo that her grandmother makes is another favorite. The first time she ate this, was the first time I heard her asking for more. It is a wonderful recipe to give to her because this is another way to hide veggies, and because she actually needs the kind of fat from butter and oils, the sauce is very nutritious for her. As long as there are noodles, she is happy. Sometimes it can be hard to put strips of peppers or big chunks of broccoli in something without them noticing, but hopefully after some time, they might actually eat one and enjoy it. Mac n Cheese is an obvious choice for picky eaters, although this was something I never liked as a child. Just like my daughter, I soon realized I liked Kraft better than homemade. Sometimes I add some cut up broccoli because otherwise I feel like she doesn’t get enough green stuff.

Another great idea: smoothies. I read in one magazine about adding tofu and honestly, my daughter didn’t drink it. She has had smoothies and milkshakes before, but the one time I did make it with tofu, she didn’t touch it. I could understand why because the texture would be enough to throw her off, but if you’re like me you will want to try it anyway. Last but not least is spaghetti sauce!! This wasn’t really something she liked from the beginning (although she ate a lot of Spaghettios) and she barely ever ate pizza, but suddenly she was eating if just fine. After she got used to eating it more I added some meat to the sauce. The first few times she hated it because she wouldn’t expect it to be there; the texture was different, then we went to my mother’s house and had it there, and I was so excited that she ate. My daughter is so bad about food that if we are not home (or at Grammy’s when she got a little older), she won’t eat anything but crackers and cheese. At least cheese is good for her to eat, but I was relieved that she was eating meat because I feel that there has to be that protein in her diet; red meat still has important nutritional values, and should be eaten once in a while.

Other yummy food

Of course, my daughter has no problem with cookies and ice cream. Donuts and cake, she might just lick the frosting off, especially if there are sprinkles. Yogurts are great if your child is underweight, but I still worry about the sugar. For some reason, my daughter avoids using her spoon (even with her ice cream she will try to scoop it up with her fingers) so I gave her a Go-gurt. If you don’t know what this is; basically yogurt in a tube that you can eat like toothpaste. You can also freeze them. Well, she enjoys go-gurt once in a while for a treat.

Then there’s the sauce. I think that being offered sauce with her French fries made it more tempting for my daughter, but she doesn’t seem to care one way or the other now. I love to give her fish sticks because she will eat tartar sauce with them, and because she is underweight, I hope that the sauce will help. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to matter much to her if there is ketchup or barbeque sauce, she still will not touch a hamburger or hot dog. So good luck to you, I hope my advice will help.


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