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Crow Wing Energized: Sneaking in those vegetables for a picky eater

Make food fun! We all were probably taught at some point in our lives to not play with our food, however that isn’t the case for kids.

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Anyone else have a picky eater at home?

This is a completely normal step for your child and facilitates them growing up and becoming independent. However, it can be frustrating for us as parents!

Picky eating can be a normal part of development and sometimes, children may even refuse whole food groups or completely refuse to try a new food. There can be more extreme cases of picky eating that need to be assessed by a doctor, but if your child is healthy and gaining adequate weight, there is no reason to be concerned about their picky eating habits. If there is a weight gain or development concern, contact your child’s pediatrician and discuss your concerns.

Why is my child so picky?

In their first couple of years, children grow very fast. Now that their growth is slowing down a bit, their appetite may be slowing down, too. Toddler’s tummies are the size of a fist, so they fill up fast. If your child is fussing during mealtime, they may just be full. Ensuring your child is rested and ready for mealtime is really important, being tired can make mealtime more difficult … for the child and the parent.

Play with your food!

Make food fun! We all were probably taught at some point in our lives to not play with our food, however that isn’t the case for kids. There’s no need to sneak veggies into meals when kids think they are fun to begin with. Your child enjoys visual and imaginative play, so use this to your advantage during mealtime and play with the food. Use cut up carrots, peppers, strawberries, oranges, and celery to create a building, once it crashes down, it’s time to eat!


Let them be a part of the prepping and cooking process!

Children love to help and be included. Let them look through the pantry and fridge to find fruits and vegies to create art with. This will feed their curiosity and may even empower them to try new foods.

Sneaking veggies into different foods:

Adding veggies into food can be very simple. Puree up spinach or broccoli in the food processor or blender and add to your muffin mix, spaghetti sauce, fettuccine alfredo sauce, smoothies, omelets, soups, meatballs, and lasagna. Swap out rice for cauliflower rice, most kids won’t know the difference. Swap out pasta with sweet potato slices or a layer or cooked spaghetti squash instead. Adding veggies to soups is also a great way to add in nutrients. You can add a variety of root veggies and greens to make it a heftier, more nutrient dense soup. It will still taste great and it’s a good way to clean out the fridge at the end of the week.

What do I do if my child throws food or turns away while I feed her?

Try to follow your child’s cues and respond appropriately. A child throwing food usually means she is full or done eating. Save the food, if possible, for another meal and try it again later. You get to choose what foods to give your child, when to feed her, and where she eats. She gets to choose how much to eat from what you offer. Toddlers want to be independent and allowing her to feed herself really supports her.

My child wants to snack all day, is this normal?

It is normal for your child to want to eat every 2-3 hours. Offer healthy meals and snacks every 2-3 hours at the same time each day. Try to avoid snacks right before mealtimes. Instead, offer snacks two hours before the next meal. Snacks should be healthy options such as vegetables, fruits, cereal, yogurt, toast, or cheese. Try limiting salty snacks and sweets. Limit allowing your child to get food out of the fridge or cupboard for themselves all day long, they will not eat well at meals if they eat constantly during the day.


My child gets full from milk and juice, what do I do about this?

Offer water between meals to keep them hydrated and only offer milk or juice during mealtime. Toddlers should only have up to 4 ounces of 100% juice each day and only about 2 cups of milk. If they drink more than this, especially before they eat, their tummies will be too full to eat the meal.

If you know that this picky phase is coming, you will be less likely to worry and can enjoy mealtime with your child. Be a good role model by having an open and curious attitude about food and eat a healthy variety. Don’t get discouraged if you are struggling, continue to offer healthy options, chances are eventually they will try them! Now, let’s eat!

Fischer is a public health nurse, Community Services, Crow Wing County.

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