Top Tips for Picky Eating From A Registered Dietitian Mom
Is the list of foods your little one WON’T eat growing longer every day? And the list of foods they WILL eat shrinks to almost nothing?
Unfortunately, it is normal for kids to be picky eaters, especially ages 2-5. But that doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and give up. It doesn’t mean you have to serve chicken nuggets, and ONLY that one brand they like, for dinner every night. I’ve got your back, mama! I know you want your little ones to be healthy and grow their sweet little bodies and brains.
I’m Kacie Barnes, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and mama of two. My almost 4 year old is a picky eater, so I have personal experience with this, too! We have our fair share of battles, both in the kitchen and out. (And I’m always looking to Gina for advice on how to handle those!)
If you have a picky eater in your house, I promise, it can get better. It takes some hard work and perseverance, but you’re no stranger to that as a mom. Here are some tips to get you going. If you get to a point where you’ve tried EVERYTHING and still see no improvement, please reach out to me. I offer nutrition counseling services and would be happy to help. So let’s get to it-- here are three tips to reduce picky eating.
Follow a regular daily routine for meals and snacks. This one is HUGE. It’s #1 on my list for a reason. Because if you do absolutely nothing else, you must do this. Most young kids do well with three meals and two snacks a day. Check out our normal schedule in this post. There should be a few hours in between each meal/snack to allow appetite to build up. Hunger makes kids more willing to try new, different, or less liked foods. Think about it- if you’re not that hungry, do you want to eat salmon and green beans? Probably not. But would you eat a couple potato chips? Probably. Schedules are helpful for another reason. They teach children what to expect. They learn that food is not available all day long, and if they want to fill their bellies, they need to do it at a meal time. Not 15 minutes after the meal is over, with their favorite snack from the pantry.
Feed them what you are eating, with some modifications. No one enjoys being short-order cook at meal time. And if you make your child a different meal than you have yourself, then they come to expect that you’ll always give them their favorites. You might be saying, “well, they won’t eat anything I eat!” And I believe you. Trust me. But think about what modifications you can make. For example, say I want to make a chicken sausage and veggie sheet pan meal. I’ll choose chicken apple sausage since I know my son is more likely to try a sweet version. I’ll leave some veggies raw because he prefers raw to roasted. And you can add a dip like ketchup, if your kid likes that.
Don’t give up. When our little ones learn to walk, we don’t get discouraged when they take wobbly steps and fall down. We are proud and excited for what’s to come! We need to think of eating as a learning process in the same way. Expect that they won’t want to try something the first several times they see it. It could take a hundred times before they eat it! That is totally normal. Serve SMALL portions of these foods. Think like the size of a dime. That’s less overwhelming and can encourage them to try it. Remember, they can always have more if they surprise you and gobble it up!