We all know by now that we should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day but these are seldom choices for picky eaters’ food. Even though it is recommended sometimes to be seven to ten servings by certain healthcare professionals.
As a feature of normal development between two and six years old, most children experience not only a decrease in appetite (Tharner et al., 2014) but also a decreased rate of growth (Kuczmarski et al., 2000) as well.
Picky eater’s food is a common concern for parents and they are frequently looking for tips for picky eaters. Food preferences are typically established during toddlerhood but may vary significantly weekly or even daily (Birch et al., 1987).
Young children often need to sample foods as many as 15 times before they will accept it as a part of their normal diet (Birch et al., 1987). There is no uniform definition for picky eater’s food, and children who eat a “decreased variety of foods” are often considered picky eaters (Galloway et al., 2005).
A child with a poor dietary variety may have a deficiency of nutrient intakes specifically with low intakes of iron and zinc (often associated with picky eaters food of low intakes of meat, and fruits and vegetables) being of particular concern. Low intakes of dietary fiber as a result of low intakes of fruit and vegetables are associated with constipation in picky eaters triggering parents to look for tips for picky eaters. There may also be a concern for developmental difficulties in some children with persistent picky eating.
But knowing and doing are two different things, aren’t they? Sometimes it is just not easy to get them all in there. We are constantly tempted to fill up on convenience and junk food. If your family is anything like most, they’d much rather fill up on a bag of chips or a bowl of rice or pasta instead of trying an apple or a plate of steamed broccoli. So we will have to get creative to inspire and create tips for picky eaters…
Here are a few tips for picky eaters to sneak some extra vegetables and fruits into your family’s diet.
Start the day with a breakfast smoothie:
All you have to do is throw some fruits, and/or veggies, low-fat yogurt, or plant milk and ice in a blender. You may also want to add a scoop of protein powder in there for good measure. Just blend for a few seconds and you have the perfect breakfast ready to go. I like to sip mine in a thermal cup on the way to work. To make it even more appealing for your kids, use some frozen yogurt or a scoop of homemade fruit ice cream in the smoothie. They won’t believe that you are letting them have ice cream for breakfast, and is a satisfying picky eaters food.
Making an excellent snack any time of the day. Add some small cartons of raisins to your child’s lunch box, pack some yogurt-covered raisins in your husband’s briefcase and keep some trail mix sitting around for snacking. You can also add dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal in the morning. My family loves banana chips in their breakfast cereal and yogurt. This is of course best if you make these chips at home then you know they aren’t coated full of sugar as tips for picky eaters.
Add some fruits and vegetables to your family’s sandwiches:
You can add some banana, sliced apples, or strawberry slices to a peanut butter sandwich. Top a sandwich slice – I use vegan chicken slices -but you may use chicken or turkey- with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and anything else they will feed as tips for picky eaters. You can even make a sub shop style vegetable sandwich by combining several different vegetables with some vegan mayonnaise and vegan cheese on bread.
Have a salad bar at dinner:
Set out a variety of chopped vegetables, some cheese, and gluten-free croutons as well as several choices of salad dressing along with the lettuce, and let everybody create their own perfect salad as tips for picky eaters. Set out some sauces, dips, and flavors for dipping to spice things up and make the food more attractive.
Let them drink their fruits and vegetables:
Keep an assortment of fruit and vegetable juices in the fridge and encourage everyone to drink them as a snack. Get creative. You could start family cocktail hour by pouring everybody a glass of his or her favorite juice over ice as tips for picky eaters that prefer high sugary drinks such as soda. Add some straws, cocktail umbrellas, and sit together to talk about how everybody’s day went.
Try this for dessert:
Put a small scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt in a bowl and top it with lots of fresh or frozen fruit. Yum! These are great tips for picky eaters for dessert especially if you add some nuts, seeds, and a little honey to the homemade ice cream.
Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks:
You can cut apples into slices and top them with peanut butter or cheese. Cube cheese and serve with grapes. Cut up some fresh veggies and serve them with ranch dip. Do fun things, be creative like – ants on a log. Spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the inside of a stick of celery and sprinkle raisins on it (wow, fruit and vegetable in one snack). Picky eater’s food needs to have variety in them, so the more options the better.
Try some new fruits and vegetables:
Pick something exotic to get your family’s curiosity. With a little luck, their curiosity will outweigh their initial apprehension about trying something new. You could try artichokes, plantains, papaya, mango, star fruit, or anything else you can find in the produce department of your local store, but as tips for picky eaters make sure THEY pick them out that way they have more ownership over the food items and will be more inspired to eat them.
Make a pot of vegetable soup or a stew:
that’s heavy on veggies and easy on the meat or better still go meat-free. Both of these make some great comfort food when the weather gets cold. As tips for picky eaters, the more the better mixed in as a soup or stew. This allows for all of the flavors to mix together and softens any harsh flavors.
Start my Veggie Day:
Each family member gets to pick a vegetable one day of the week for picky eater’s food. They qualify to pick a vegetable as long as they tried each vegetable the week before, otherwise, they lose a turn and Mom gets to pick. This hopefully will inspire curiosity and ownership over eating healthy. Make sure you reinforce the health benefits of the food item to reinforce health education.
Incorporate these tips for picky eaters and you will have everyone in your family eating more fruits and vegetables in no time.
Here is one of the last tips for picky eaters:
Keep stocked up! – As now that everyone in the family has gotten a taste for it, make sure you always have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies available and ready to snack on. Have them readily available at all times with plenty of variety.
Parents can be reassured that picky eaters have a common stage of development that is unlikely to cause any permanent harm to the child’s long-term development. Levene and Williams have set out detailed strategies for parents/caregivers for picky eater’s food. Key strategies include having realistic expectations of children’s portion sizes – if they take a few bites, be excited they are open to trying.
Continue to offer them repeated exposure to unfamiliar foods (10–15 positive experiences may be needed). Use non-food rewards to provide motivation such as stickers, more tv time, or more outdoor time.
Always maintaining a positive approach, avoiding negativity and pressure to eat on picky eaters is helpful in them being open to progress. Parental modeling of eating fruit and vegetables and trying unfamiliar foods is helpful in building confidence in unfamiliar foods.
Promote a healthy appetite by limiting snacks and energy-providing drinks in between meals. Have social food experiences such as family meals with all members eating the same food, discussing the health benefits of foods, and encouraging curiosity about foods. Most importantly focus on long-term goals and be consistent with trying foods.