My little guy has always been a great eater. Ever since he first started solids, there was rarely anything he didn’t like. After he turned two, I worried that his great little eating habits would change, but they didn’t. I thought we were in the clear, well, that was until he turned three and now we’re learning how to handle a picky eater! For the last four months, my eager little eater has now turned into a persnickety muncher who turns his nose up at the sight of anything that’s not a boiled egg, pack of fruit snacks, or cereal. We’ve had a difficult time coping with this picky little eating stage he’s going through, but we managed to figure out what works for him. Here are a few tips for handling picky eaters:
Before, Asher always ate what we were having. I never had to substitute his plate with something I thought he would eat. He always just had what we did. Now, there are nights that he won’t eat what we are having, especially if it’s chicken. (I mean, what kid doesn’t like chicken?!) I started including him in our weekly meal plans and gave him options. Toddlers and preschoolers are very curious, and wanting a little independence is normal developmental behavior for them. I let Asher pick out fruits and vegetables, and count and place them in the bag when we’re at the store. Allowing him to choose healthy meal options, gives him a sense of self reliance. Some days, I will even draw a fun little grocery list with pictures of fruits and vegetables, and let him do the shopping while I push him around in the cart. Yes, this makes for a longer grocery trip, but it’s a great learning and developmental lesson for him.
A friend of mine shared a tip for handling picky eaters and told me about the “graze tray” concept. Think of a cheese tray, but for kids. During snack time, offer an assortment of healthy options to your little one. That way they can choose what the would like to eat. I always offer a nice variety of snacks: Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, boiled eggs, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, carrots, Cheerios, cheese sticks, and homemade meat bites). This method works like a charm (at least for us) and has been a great way to offer healthy snack options.
With my little guy not eating as much during regular meal times, I’ve had to add a few more small meals to his day. For instance:
- 6:30am – Breakfast
- 8:15am – Light snack on the way to school
- 10am – School Snack
- 12pm – Lunch
- 2pm. – Snack
- 3:45pm – Light Snack
- 5:30pm – Dinner
- 6:45pm – Light before bed snack, usually a smoothie
This isn’t always our routine, but if he picks at his first meal and doesn’t eat much, he’s usually fairly hungry by snack time. I always offer whole healthy snacks as well. Filling and not full of sugar. Remember bellies at this age are small so serving sizes should be small as well!
I feel that even though this is hopefully just a stage my little one is going through, it’s still my responsibility to ensure that he has a healthy diet. I’ve learned that sugar and my energetic munchkin do not mix well. He will occasionally get sugary items such as fruit snacks, but I always try to buy the highest-quality product available. I eliminated many sugary items out of his diet early on, and I can tell you that it has truly made a world of difference. Be cautious as to what you buy — many yogurt cups, juices, cookies and other snack items contain very large amounts of sugar. If you are feeling overwhelmed about your picky eater, keep your chin up.
Smoothies & Popsicles
Kids love smoothies and popsicles, which both great options for “hiding” some of the things your little one usually wouldn’t pick up if it was on their plate. My guy often has a smoothie for breakfast or a snack, and I love to add flax seeds, chia seeds and a splash of other great nutrients. I purchased a popsicle mold off Amazon over the summer and we always keep yummy popsicles (that are healthy) in the freezer at all times. You can see my recipe for Coconut Chia Pops HERE.
Make Meals Fun
Cotton Babies offers a variety of feeding items that make mealtime fun for kids — and stress-free for you! The ezpz Happy Mat, Sili Squeeze and Skip Hop plates are some of our favorites and can help you deal with a picky eater! We also take our meals outdoors on nice days as well! This changes things up a bit and takes kids’ minds off the dreaded dinner table.
I’ve got a small drawer in our pantry full of small snacks for my little guy. When he’s hungry, he can reach into the drawer and pull out a snack of his choice — on his own. This method has been great for afternoon snack time. I usually stick an orange, apple, banana and even an avocado in there. It’s amazing how often he will choose a whole item over a bag of organic pretzels.
What are your tips for handling picky eaters?
We are still in our picky eating journey, and each and everyday I’m learning something new. I’ve found that the best nutrient-dense foods my little guy loves are eggs, avocados, sweet potatoes, whole organic grains/pastas, leafy vegetables and greek yogurt. As for myself, keeping calm and just relaxing during this stage has seemed to be the best thing for myself and my little one.