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Picky Kids?

Older kids still appreciate the familiar, whether it's a regular bedtime routine or their peanut butter sandwich cut on the diagonal. And while your child probably isn't still saying "No!" just to assert himself, he still appreciates having some control over his life, including what foods he eats. Your child probably doesn't like having much attention paid to his eating habits, so keep your approach low key. Whatever you do, don't pressure or bribe your child to eat because you'll only run into resistance.  I try to serve my kids veggies 1st, then when they're done I give them the rest of the meal.

**Don't forget:  Experts say it may take 10 – 15 exposures to accept a new food so keep trying!!  Sometimes, new foods take time.  Kids don't always take to new foods right away.  Offer new foods many times.  It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food so hang in there!


Don't say "my child will only eat _____".  That's because it's likely the food you are giving your child the most.  If you continue to only give them the 1-2 foods they like then they will continue to only want that. Keep trying, and cook foods differently.

When your child might not be eating enough, you want to make sure each food they do eat is nutrient dense (such as fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, olive oil, etc) to ensure they get enough nutrition for their needs.  Another great way to give them the vitamins and minerals if they're picky is to make smoothies! Sometimes kids won't eat but they will drink fun smoothies.  When my daughters went through a phase of not liking fruit & veggies, I hid them in smoothies.  Put it in a fancy cup with a cool straw and they'll love it!"  See below for healthy smoothie recipes, ways to hide fruit & veggies, & ways to make food fun.

The best thing you can do is to provide a wide variety of healthy foods in a positive, relaxed environment so that mealtimes will be enjoyable for everyone. Here are some specific tips on how to handle a picky eater: 


-Be a good role model by trying new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture, and smell.


-Provide a variety of good foods for your child to eat at each meal. Your grade-schooler may be happy to try new things, or it may take numerous exposures to a new food before he's willing to give it a go. So be patient. When you do offer a new food, simply place it on the dinner table with everything else, and don't make a big deal about it. Don't put it right on your child's plate; let him choose it for himself. He might dig right in, or he may warm up to it eventually, after seeing you eat it a few times.


-Serve a small amount of his/her favorite food along with 1-2 healthy, new foods.  Do not ever make a special meal for your child.  Make the same healthy meal for everyone to eat, let him/her know that is the meal and there isn't any exceptions.  Set a time for them to finish the meal (ie; 30 minutes) and if he/she isn't done then save the meal.  30 minutes later when he/she complains they're hungry bring that plate back out and say "this was the meal served, you may eat it if you're hungry".  If your child is hungry they will eat it.  Do not cater to them because they will take advantage of that.  Kids are great at testing us!


-Don't give your grade-schooler too many options at mealtime. If you say "It's dinnertime. What would you like to eat?" your child will probably choose something familiar, and he'll seem like a picky eater. However, if you say, "Here's dinner," he'll have to choose from among the foods you're offering. Of course, you won't want to offer an entire meal of unfamiliar foods because your child simply won't eat them. Instead, always offer a meal that includes at least one thing you know your child likes.


-When presenting new foods, don't offer them in large quantities. If by some miracle your child is willing to try a new food, give him just a taste and let him ask for more before putting a whole serving on his plate. This way he won't feel overwhelmed, and it won't seem like a waste of food to you if he doesn't eat it. And try to present new foods when he's hungry — like slices of mango when he has the afternoon munchies.  offer only one new food at a time.   Offer new foods first, at the beginning of a meal, when your child is the most hungry!


-If you send a packed lunch to school, give your child some choices about what goes in it, but also include a fun surprise now and then. An exciting lunch is more likely to be eaten. Whenever possible, involve your grade-schooler in food decisions and preparations, including shopping and making meals and snacks. (And if he can help you grow some of the family's produce in the yard, so much the better!) This will give him a sense of control over his diet. And he'll be more likely to eat something that he's chosen or helped make for himself. Make fun, healthful treats together, like yogurt-and-fruit banana splits or smoothies.


-Look for ways to boost the nutritional value of the foods your grade-schooler enjoys. Put some tuna or ham on his grilled cheese, or meat or tofu in his spaghetti sauce, for example.


-Teach your grade-schooler (without lecturing) about good nutrition. Put a food chart on the refrigerator and have him color in the requirements as he meets them each day, and mention nonchalantly that his oatmeal will help him run and jump better at school today. --Keep in mind that many children are less picky eaters when they're away from home. So as your child's world expands and he begins attending school, his palate may broaden as well.


-Try to avoid foods that are heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened and avoid adding anything to your child’s food. It may prevent your child from experiencing the natural taste of foods and they may be harmful too.


-Try not to give your child anything to drink or eat before the meal. Do not let your child drink during meal time, this can help make room for more healthy foods.

As a toddler this is the time to introduce as much healthy foods as possible so they will develop taste buds to desire these foods. 

Please don't give your toddler fried foods or soda or salt or sugar or add butter, these are things that have no nutritional value and your child doesn't need it!  
It will make them develop taste buds for these unhealthy additives and it will be difficult for them to desire healthy foods over the years. 

Now is the time to make good decisions for your child, they don't know any better, it is up to you to provide healthy foods for your children!

When my kids were picky I made them fruit/veggie smoothies. It's an easy way for them to get what they need. Click here or visit our smoothie page for some healthy ideas the kids will love. 

How can I tell whether my child is really getting enough to eat if he's not growing?
Don't panic if it seems like your grade-schooler isn't growing fast enough. Children don't always grow at a steady pace, and there will be times when your child doesn't seem to be growing at all. Keep in touch with your dietitian and doctor if you're concerned, but don't convey your fears to your child. If you're constantly hovering at mealtime and counting calories, he/she is likely to become even more resistant to eating.

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