Picky eating is a prevailing concern for parents and rightly so. We have more picky eaters than every before. Depending on the study, between 20 and 66 percent of parents say they have a “problem eater.”
A mom with a picky eater asks for advice. She’s concerned about her toddler, who was born prematurely and at two is still underweight. He has a tiny appetite and he’s a clever picky eater who manages to get the junk food he prefers. Her pediatrician suggests she give him PediaSure® to guarantee he’s receiving enough calories.
Does your child make a face like Payton when veggies are placed on her plate?
High calorie drinks are a common “fix” in an attempt to boast calorie intake in a picky eater. Another mom of a skinny picky toddler expressed her concern when her pediatrician suggested she give her tot a Carnation Instant Breakfast® each morning.
Certainly, it is easier to drink calories, than to eat them (as is evident in sodas which are useless, even harmful calories). Unfortunately, high caloric processed drinks for skinny picky eaters tend to backfire. Sugar is the first ingredient in these drinks and sugar fuels the problem, instead of the child. With high calorie processed drinks, tiny tummies are filled with sugar and synthetic vitamins. Inevitably, children cut back on wholesome foods. A much better option is to make fruit smoothies loaded with real food like whole milk, bananas, and berries. You can super charge smoothies with omega 3 flax seed oil and barley greens.
Two-year-olds are experts at mommy manipulation. Desperate moms eventually give in and offer something they know their child will eat. Not surprising, the foods toddlers prefer are lacking in nutrients and are high in artificial ingredients: grilled cheese (often it’s imitation cheese on soft bread), French fries, hot dogs, dry cereals, crackers, cookies, and fast food (pizza and Happy Meals®). Fresh fruit and veggies are painfully absent on the picky eater’s list of preferred foods.
Health workers are quick to assure parents that children “won’t starve themselves.” But, they are starving for healthful nutrients. This is parents’ real concern, because the food their children willingly eat is processed junk food.
1) Skinny Picky Eaters
Calories aren’t the only worry for skinny picky eaters. Children require proper nourishment to be healthy and that includes eating vegetables. Picky eaters, especially those in the bottom 10 to 20 percentiles for weight, may be more susceptible to illness and may take longer to heal. Unless whole foods are incorporated into a child’s diet, it’s assured that illness will follow. Obesity isn’t initially a problem for the skinny picky eater, at least for now. Unless he learns to eat whole foods, adult weight gain is sure to become an issue, because he’s eating the same simple carbohydrates as the chubby picky eater.
2) Chubby Picky Eaters
Yes, picky eaters can be chubby. The difference is the chubby picky eater is consuming more calories than the skinny picky eater. Fast foods and simple carbohydrates (soda pop, cookies, chips, candy, etc.) are mainstay for the chubby picky eater. Don’t be fooled: a chubby child can be starved of nutrients as well.
3) Transformation to a Healthy Eater
Good eaters use ALL their senses. When ALL your child’s senses are integrated during mealtimes, she learns to enjoy whole foods, even veggies! Despite what you may have heard, parents can teach their picky eaters to love veggies.
Parents tend to forget the other methods of learning and expect taste alone should be enough when introducing new foods to their children. Taste is the LAST sense to incorporate. The first objective is to learn about food, especially food that has been previously refused.
Once parents throw out failed methods (bribing, punishment, and the One Bite Rule) and change mealtime rules, learning to eat whole foods begins. Parent-led directives during mealtimes about the food’s attributes include talking about its color, texture, aroma, and taste, before a child is ever asked to take a tiny bite. This is multi-sensory learning. Children’s transformation to healthy eaters occurs quickly.
For the picky toddler or preschool child, you can add an extra element of fun to multi-sensory learning. Through make-believe (directed-play) young picky eaters are encouraged to appreciate once-refused foods. I like to use two little plastic characters during toddler mealtimes. Both are foodies, appreciating the unique colors, textures, smells, and tastes of food.
A green T-Rex, named Try Rannosaurus®, is especially fond of green veggies. He’s called “Try” because he will try any new food. Tiny Betty Baby BitesTM is his best mouse friend and is also a lover of whole foods. When your child pretends to feed these little buddies all her senses are activated. Also, mealtime conversation is more fun with preschoolers when Betty and Try say things like “Green food is yummy!” And offer positive words of encouragement, “Bravo: and “Fastastico!”