One of the most common questions we get is how to handle kids that are picky eaters. As a mom of 2.5-year old triplets, I can tell you it’s not an easy task!
I’ve struggled, like I’m sure most caregivers have at some point, with the ever-changing food preferences of my kids. So, I thought I would create a series of 4-5 posts with ideas that have worked for me and my family and hopefully they can help you out as well!
I strongly believe that, for the most part, kids will grow up to eat what their parents eat. No matter how much you lecture them, they are eventually going to mimic you in most things. So, that’s my first suggestion, eat with them, and eat nutritious foods. They might not be thrilled about lettuce at this point, but if they are used to seeing you enjoy it, they will learn to enjoy it too. Patience is key!
I also believe that, as parents, it’s one of our biggest responsibilities to try and offer nutritious and varied foods to our children. Having said that, it’s ultimately their decision which (and how much) of those foods they wish to eat – and trust me, it can be hard to change the mind of a strong-willed 2 year-old. If you have toddlers like I do, you’ve also seen that part of their development at this stage is demonstrating their independence and food is one of the only things they have control over. I suspect that making a big deal about what they are or aren’t eating can become a power battle, so I try to play it cool if they reject certain foods, even if it’s just to keep family meals an enjoyable time for all of us. On the days that they turn their noses up at most of the things I make, I just offer more nutritious foods at the next meal. If there are any substitutes within the same meal, it’s from the same food group, aka apples for pears, broccoli for cauliflower. That way they feel they have options but they’re always options I approve of.
I like offering smaller snacks and larger meals. Growing up in Mexico, I’m used to larger meals and basically no snacks so I try to offer very light snacks to the kids since I believe you can get more nutrients out of a meal compared to most snack foods. I’ve also noticed that when their snacks are light, they are really hungry at mealtime and tend to eat better.
These are some basic concepts that have helped me in this journey and I hope they can help you as well. What strategies do you use for helping your kids make healthy food choices?
Post by Karla Russek Nasir, MD