Posted by: Bill & Gayle McCord | October 25, 2010

Tips for Picky Eaters

Luke’s Meal Boot Camp

Many of you are parents or even grandparents of little ones.  Emily recently did a post about their on-going struggle with their son’s annoyingly stubborn picky ways.  I have been there and seen the battle.  It is not pretty.  I have only read of these successes and am so proud of Luke and his progress that I thought I’d share Emily’s tips with you.

First off, Emily wants everyone to know she is not a nutritionist or an expert.  She does not even eat organically and all that.  she just wants her kids to eat well-rounded, healthy meals that are varied.  Secondly, she wants you to know that, like mentioned earlier, this is a work in progress.  While much ground has been made, there is still a ways to go.

Emily’s Tips

  • I read a blog that I can no longer put my finger on that suggested that you (the parent) decide when, where, and what your toddler will eat.  It is up to your toddler whether to eat and how much.  Prior to having Luke, I would have sneered at that, knowing that I could control whether or how much my child ate.  Enter Luke.  He will sit at the table for hours and not touch a single bite.  He will button his lips and spit out anything you force in, which only escalates the anxiety the next time you put him at the table.  So, I tried this new method of serving him what we were having and not worrying about him not eating it.
  • Neutralize the setting. The next step was being unemotional about it all.  Luke is my kid through and through and we know how get each other riled up.  So, I tried to keep a calm voice and not to force anything on him.  I mostly didn’t even remind him this was dinner, etc.  I didn’t want to focus too much on giving him unwarranted attention.  While he didn’t necessarily start eating what was on his plate, he learned to trust me and that I wasn’t going to stare at him or try to convince him to eat something he simply didn’t want.
  • Even eating happily at Burger King was even a struggle for Luke, who only wanted the french fries.Since Luke wasn’t giving in and eating what we served, I decided to add one go-to item to the plate.  For us, it was yogurt.  Sometimes, after eating a healthy favorite, Luke would be more adventuresome in trying something different.  Plus, I knew he got something good for him and wouldn’t wake up famished at 3am (which has never happened, btw).
  • Additionally, I restricted snacks and most treats.  I’ve tried to make snack time a part of our routine and at the table so the kids aren’t carrying snacks around the house and therefore expecting them in any context.  I usually offer apples or carrots or healthy crackers since they’ll eat those most times.  I make snack time no later than 10 when possible and try to keep the snack good-sized but not unlimited so there’s still sufficient time to be hungry again for lunch.
  • I also started only giving them milk with meals and water in between.  That way they don’t fill up on liquids.
  • I am really bad about wanting to give the kids treats, so we’ve tried to reward them with sweets after some dinners.  we don’t want them to expect a dessert every night, tho, so it’s random.  Both kids LOVE frozen yogurt- literally the yogurt you buy at the store poured into popsicle  molds and frozen.  They have no idea it’s not a “real” dessert.
  • We noticed that dinner was the only meal Luke hated coming to.  Part of Luke’s anxiety there was that 5pm was when we allowed them a movie (so I could make dinner in peace), so shutting it off at 5:30 for dinner was sad for Luke.  Since we have many movies, I’ve started trying to pick a 30-minute movie or a Dora episode that last 20 minutes so that there’s a natural shut off moment and closure for the kids (rather than hit “play all”).  This has helped tremendously.  (Plus, when Luke saw there was yogurt, he knew there was something he would like on his plate.)
  • You don’t want this, do you?  A little reverse psychology never hurt anyone.  One morning I boiled 2 eggs, knowing Luke would not eat one.  Rebekah loves them, so I peeled hers and handed it to her.  Luke watched her intently and then begged for an egg.  Astonished, I watched him devour the entire white part.  I tried it again a few days later and he ate the entire thing!  The trick here is being non-chalant and not doing it everyday.
  • Similarly, Luke has tried new things because he sees his “friends” eat them.  A good kind of peer pressure, I suppose.
  • We also have tried different presentations.  I have experimented with plates- plain or colored or with a favorite character on them, as well as how much I put on there.  Most of the time, too many things on the plate overwhelm both kids, so I have simplified the options.  Along the same vein, I have cut things in different shapes- instead of rectangular halves, why not go triangular?  Instead of circle pancakes, why not hearts?  Instead of sliced carrots, why not matchsticks or even the entire carrot??
  • As a rule, the kids cannot ask for something different than what has been offered.  I might ask them what they want for lunch s I give them 2 or 3 choices (hot dog, sandwich, or grilled cheese), but they only get what I supply.  This has saved me from making 2 or 3 different meals.
  • Dipping sauces sometime help my cause.  In fact, the other night, Luke asked for BBQ sauce and then ate every bit of pork roast he could get his hands on.  A definite first.  he had been watching Rebekah and wanted to try it, too.  So, for me, a little mess is worth a good meal!
  • Finally, something I noticed with a friend’s help was that Luke was willing to try things away from the table more than at the table.  For example, at a party, Luke saw several types of sandwiches and because he was allowed to walk around with them, He munched on ham and rye sandwiches instead of cupcakes and scones!  This is where I’m willing to flex on the “at the table at this time” rule.

Good luck, readers!  Let us know if you have any tips to add!

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