If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands, you may resort to the same foods over and over again. Pancakes, milk, and fruit – sound familiar?
The problem with picky eating is that it can interfere with nutrition, which sorta kinda is a big deal for growing littles. Things like brain, bones, and even mood are impacted by food. If you need to – get your kiddo on a good multivitamin (more on that later). But if you think it might make a difference, try out these tips below.
1. Monster bites, fairy bites, and baby bites
A good rule of thumb is to keep things light. While you want to avoid using food as either a punishment or a reward, there’s nothing wrong with creating play around food.
Based on what commands your little’s attention – big and loud fire engines, for example – use these things as tools to make eating fun. Maybe allow a small toy at the dinner table – especially if one nibble from a toy car is returned with a monster bite from your picky two-year-old.
Other ways to make food fun:
- Use cookie cutters for cheese, eggs, fruit, and veggies
- Offer something to dip food into, like a mild guacamole made with avocado and lime juice
- Allow your little to help prepare food using a wavy chopper
Related: The Best Baby Spoons
2. Eat together
Confession – I can’t tell you how many times I have given my kid food in the car while running errands. Sometimes this is even a quick breakfast or lunchtime snack.
BUT, there’s something about eating meals together as a family that encourages adventurous eating. Researchers have even found that leading by example and exposing your little to a particular food many times is more effective than a reward of cartoon stickers.
For us, family meals most often happen during the evening hours. This is when we are all together in once place at the same time. Like most kids, our son is drawn to the foods that my husband and I eat. It’s worked out since I like to experiment in the kitchen and on those days when it feels like there’s no time – we stick to a few veggies and meat.
Even if it’s one meal a day – see if you can make a point of eating together. The benefits are profound.
3. Food flying through the air?
Throwing food, playing with food, and wandering away from the table are signs that your little is either done eating or wants more attention during mealtimes.
It’s okay – and even worthwhile – to set boundaries during mealtime rather than requirements to eat. For example, once your child begins tinkering around with food rather than eating it – check in. Even if this happens after a few bites. Let them know, “Oh, looks like your all done!” And watch for a renewed interest in food. If this doesn’t happen, end mealtime rather than coaxing or bargaining for one more bite.
Usually – when you’re fully engaged, you’ll notice the signs of waning interest before there’s the need to wipe large quantities of food from the floor.
4. Try probiotics and fermented foods
Okay – this one is a little deep: Taste is driven by microbes. Or, as someone else put it – your gut bacteria want you to eat a cupcake.
Microbes – what you get when you take a probiotic or dive into a cup of yogurt – do important things for your little’s digestion, immune system, and mood. Mood can include taste preferences and aversions!
If you notice a preference for ONLY bready foods or sweets – or if there are many objections to smells and texture – you may want to start adding coconut water kefir (you can pick it up at Whole Foods or make your own) to a favorite juice.
Coconut water kefir is fermented, so you’re getting some good microbes into the mix. It’s sour, so you’re making things a little more dynamic than salty or sweet (you guys, we have a serious problem with this. And down the road, it can really make a difference in your kid’s food preferences.
If you need it, a multivitamin.
If you’re worried that you kiddo isn’t getting the nutrients he or she needs to thrive, there’s nothing wrong with a multivitamin or supplements. Here are some supplements that are worth looking into:
I like the fiber-filled version of SmartyPants Kids Complete because it’s full of pre-biotic, gut building fiber and a spectrum of nutrients that kids need. It’s also a gummy, which most kids will love.
Only thing: It’s missing the mineral iron – so be sure to get these nutrients elsewhere – especially if your little one has an aversion to meat.
This probiotic is a sweet chewable that comes equipped with vitamin D3 – a nutrient that most babies, kids, and adults run low in. It’s also filled with probiotic strains that have been found to support young gut health, like Bifidobacteria.
Did you take cod liver oil as a kid? My grandmother gave it to me in capsules and it’s one of those things that has stood the test of time.
Cod liver oil is high in important long-chain omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and vitamin A – nutrients that are hard to come by if your little isn’t eating wild salmon several times a week.
Tip: Make things easier for everyone and mix a teaspoon of cod liver oil in orange juice or blend it into a smoothie.