Picky Eaters: Look out!
Updated: Sep 5
Let me be honest, I do not have kids but when I was a kid I was super picky and didn't want to try anything that "smelled funny". I can only imagine how stressful it was on my mom as she tried her best to keep me healthy with minimal options. I didn't like to take lunch to school because it smelled and tasted different than at home, so she made me deconstructed sandwiches or just some crackers, cheese and fruit. (again she tried her best) Sometimes a thermos full of soup or a salad with a side container of dressing. When we travelled I wouldn't eat on the plane or try new things, everything was plain and foods on the plate couldn't touch each other. As I got older, I decided to try a staple dish in Mexico that had been offered to me many times "tamales". I took one bite and couldn't believe that I had turned this down since I was a kid and made such a fuss over the years. That was my first step at realizing how much I had probably missed out on. From that day forward my mission was to try things at least once and then one more time just to make sure.
GUESS WHAT? The yays are winning, there are some things still I am not a fan of but that is okay, what matters is that I am always trying new things.
I am sure that as a parent you have many battles with your children, and what they are eating is probably one of them. You are not alone and hopefully, I can make some suggestions that will help you feel at ease and slowly transition the no thank you into a hell yes!!! There are many recipes that sneak vegetables in to favourite dishes but, are you really winning? Sure the nutrients and vitamins are getting in but what will happen when they find out that you have been tricking them all this time? They will probably have the same face towards those vegetables and fruits that you have been sneaking in. Not only that, but the trust factor they have for what you put in front of them may become a challenge.
SO what do you do?
I am not saying you can't sneak in healthier ingredients into smoothies, baked goods and dishes because they still will be getting in their vegetables . There may be a better approach.
Get the kids involved!!!!
I remember how my love for vegetables began. My grandmothers garden of goodness. She had a green thumb for sure and grew everything from rhubarb to kohlrabi. The best part is that she would always teach me about the vegetables and fruits was, letting me taste them right out of the garden. I looked forward to helping her in the garden and would try all the things she would give me. Yes there were a few faces made a "nope, not sure about that", but I learned so much and gained a better appreciation for vegetables.
Here are a few suggestions that might help get your picky eaters to try things and become adventurous. Oh! By the way, in case you didn't know, kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family, that tastes like the stem part of a broccoli. It can be eaten raw in slaws and salads, also enjoyed roasted or stir fried. Maybe this can be vegetable that you and your family try.
Bring them along on a Grocery Shop: I hear you saying, "not a chance" and "are you kidding me?" I get that it might take more time but, if you have your kids help pick out their produce and items they will most likely eat them. They will also get excited to try the items that they helped buy. While you shop, talk about the produce and how they get to the grocery store, and where they come from.
Get them in the Kitchen: Cooking with your kids can be so much fun. Give them small tasks to do if they are younger, washing fruits and vegetables, tearing of herbs from stems, ripping lettuce greens, just to name a few. There are also kid friendly knives and scissors that can be used so they can start chopping and dicing. As you work with your child talk about the various ingredients and why we need to eat them and the importance of being healthy. When they help make a meal and they see what is going in it, they will be proud to have helped.
The 2 Bite Challenge: Make a fun game with the family, creating a calendar and getting fun stickers to use. Each day that your child tried something new and took at least two bites they get stickers to put on the calendar. Have a variety of fun items they can choose from like a store, 1-4 stars gets a smaller item and the higher the number of stars gets a better prize at the end of week or month. It may seem like bribery but the way I see it, its a game and kids love games and winning prizes.
Make Food Fun: When putting vegetables on your kids plate or in a dish make it fun and creative. It can take a little extra time but your kids will think its so great. Make shapes, happy faces, pictures anything that will make the plate look interesting and different. Add a little sauce or dip and this might just get them wanting to eat more vegetables.
Texture matters: When the texture is different the taste will be different, even though it is the same vegetable. When introducing a new vegetable – try serving it in different ways. Once your child is familiar with it, they will most likely accept it as part of their diet – then you can experiment with preparation. They may not like something raw but they might like it with dip or maybe sautéed with sauce. Steam, roast, bake, grill, sauteè, pureè, whatever it may be, be patient and take the time, it will be worth it
Eat real food: Children are sponges so if they see us doing something they will try to do it too. If we encourage healthy eating and limit snacking on junk food our kids will feel the same. If they can't reach for sweet and savoury snacks and they have veggies and dip at their finger tips then guess what? If they are hungry they will reach for the healthier option. It is ok if they stick to only a few vegetables as time goes on their palates and taste will change.
Have your Dessert: That is after you eat your set amount of vegetables for that day. So maybe they don't eat vegetables every day. Try 3 times a week and when they eat what you put in front of them they get an extra special dessert. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT cave in and give them dessert if they did not eat their vegetables.
“Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Everyone is Different: Don't beat yourself up. Remind yourself that all kids are different. If your nephew eats green spinach smoothies for breakfast and your kids don't, who cares.
It is hard to stop comparing your child to others, but your path to getting your kids to eat their vegetables is your own path. Don’t be hard on yourself or them.
Aim for small wins and keep building on them.
Tomorrow is a new day: Guess what if your child is still giving you a hard time and you have tried your best, amazing!!!! Tomorrow is a new day. It may take days, weeks, years and sometimes it just is what it is. Your child will grow healthy and well as long as you are eating well and that's all that matters.
Kids are very clever and determined. They have likes and dislikes but as long as they try and have fun with food I guarantee that one day your picky eater will discover new foods to enjoy. It took me a while and my food habits are constantly evolving but I am now open to trying new things. Good luck and remember be patient and have fun.