Picky Eater Protocol
As a Family Health Coach, the number one question that I get is… what do I do about my picky eater? This is such a tough area. All kids are different and there’s simply no magic formula.
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Why is My Kid So Picky?
This is the million-dollar question. We can speculate as to why they’ve become so particular, but truth is it could be for many different reasons. One reason suggested, is that kids like to be in control of something and many of them know they can control what they eat, especially if they’ve been doing this from the get-go. I’m guilty of this. My little man had tummy troubles from the beginning of time, so it began as early as breastfeeding, and me worrying that what I was eating was affecting him.
There are also some kids with real sensory issues. They can’t handle the texture, the color, or the smell of some foods, typically this is a more serious “picky eater” problem and should be discussed with your pediatrician who can then refer you to a specialist.
My biggest tip to you is relax and do your best to meet their nutritional needs. Ask yourself are they staying mostly healthy? Are they growing well? Do they seem to have enough energy to get through the day and be active? If you answered “yes” to these questions, chances are they’re getting what they need.
The Non-Meat Eaters
What do you do when your child won’t eat meat? Kids need a lot of protein for their growing bodies, in fact, they need about 1 gram per pound of body weight according to Dr. Sears. So, when they won’t eat meat, naturally, most of us become concerned.
My son’s is biggest issue is with meat, and for good reason, he simply feels bad for eating the animals. What’s a mom to do about that? In this situation, I’ve let him stand his ground, and haven’t forced him to eat meat, but have tried to make sure that he chooses a healthy protein to replace it. He LOVES peanut butter. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the one staple in his diet that he’s eaten since he was little. We always choose a whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, and jelly with limited amounts of sugar and NO HFCS! He will also eat a variety of beans, but his favorite are Mexican refried beans and baked beans, on the rare occasion black beans.
Protein is essential for everyone. Protein provides our bodies with the 9 essential amino acids that our body cannot make. Animal based products naturally contain these 9 amino acids, but without eating animal products it’s important to make sure we are getting complete proteins from other sources in our diet. Not long ago, it was thought that we had to eat a certain combination of plant based protein at the same meal to provide our bodies the complete protein it needs. However, research has since debunked this notion. (YAY! This now gives us moms one less thing to stress about!)
The following is a list of “kid friendly” protein sources
- Quinoa (whole grains)
- Wild Rice
- Chia Seeds (bake into muffins or blend into a smoothie)
- Dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk)
- Spinach (blend into a fruity smoothie)
The Carb Lovers
My son also could eat bread, crackers, and cereal all day, every day! We literally can go through a box of cereal in 2 days. It’s amazing. Carbs are also an essential part of everyone’s diet, but it’s important that they eat the right carbs (complex) for a balanced diet and energy regulation. Sugar is a simple carb, and is in everything, read labels, and do your best to limit the sugar in foods you buy.
Kid’s bodies are being trained at a young age how to burn calories. If they’re constantly using carbs as energy, their bodies will be more likely to use them for energy verses fat, which in adulthood could make staying trim more difficult. They likely could care less about this information, but as a parent we have the responsibility to give them a healthy start for a healthy life. Provide them food containing protein, carbs, and fats.
Fat is Necessary
Most picky eaters that I’ve encountered, won’t touch fish. It tends to have a strong taste and different texture that most picky kids have trouble trusting. However, cold water fish contains healthy fats, essential for brain development, hormone production, cells, and immune system, Omega 3 EPA and DHA. These are vital for the growing child.
We can also get Omega 3s from seeds like flax and chia, and oils, however, these are ALA which the body must convert into EPA and DHA. This only happens in very small amounts, but with a picky child, I know, we have to take what we can get. I choose a multivitamin for my kids that contains DHA and EPA Omega 3s so that I know they’re more likely to get what they need.
Monounsaturated fats are also important. They have been shown to reduce the risk of various diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease. Research has shown that they help decrease inflammation, and may even help you maintain a healthy weight. These fats can be found in foods such as olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and eggs.
Protocol Suggestions for Your Picky Eater
I am a Health Coach here to educate and share ideas, however, picky eating is a very delicate subject that so many of us moms struggle with every day. We’ve had our struggles and challenges, but I’ve found a few tricks that work for my son, and first and foremost is… Patience is key!
No two kids are the same. I can vow to this as well. I have an 11-year-old daughter who is an adventurous eater, she’s never afraid to try anything. Same parents, same up bringing (both of my kids were breastfed for 13+ months), no explanation to why they are complete opposites. I’ve just learned to go with the flow and focus on the positive and not the negative. He’s healthy, he’s growing well, and has the right amount of energy!
Key Take-A ways and Suggestions
- Sit down, ask your child what they like to eat, make a list, post it on the fridge as a reminder.
- Don’t stress. Keep it simple and positive.
- Remember, some kids are very sensitive to smells and textures, having sensory issues with food is a real thing.
- Focus on protein needs for kids: 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, (a 30 pound child needs approximately 30 grams of protein per day.) Protein is the building blocks of their growing muscles and bones, they can get plenty from vegetables, and whole grains.
- Add whip cream to fruit
- Dip veggies in home made ranch
- Peanut butter or other nut butters for protein
- Make eating fun, family time, set good examples: picky parents will make picky children
- Don’t force feed anything! This will only end in frustration and tears
- Smoothies, shakes, or, cookie cutter shapes for sandwiches are fun things to try
- Cook with mild flavors
- Most kids will eat pasta and there are good whole grain, protein filled pastas on the market.
- Include one thing at each meal that they will eat. If it’s rice or potatoes, always make a rice or potato of some sort. If it’s one vegetable they will eat, make it.
- Ask them to try something new, don’t tell them. It takes approximately 7 times of trying a new food for a child to like it, don’t give up!
- Have them help make dinner, show them how fun cooking can be, make it like a science experiment.
- Educate the importance of grow foods for growing up big and strong. Use Traffic light eating. Green – grow and go. Yellow – slow down. Red – stop and think.
A List of a few of My Son’s Favorite Picky Eater Meals:
I typically either add meat or fish after I scoop out his portion or pick around it when I dish his out. He has recently started eating chicken nuggets on occasion, so we do that about once a week with a side of veggies.
- Mashed Potatoes and Noodles
- Veggie Stir Fry
- Soup and Corn Bread (He likes potato soup and pot pie soup)
- Alfredo pasta with peas
- Pasta with butter and a side of raw veggies to dip in ranch
- Peanut Butter and Jelly
- Baked potato bar with broccoli
- Rice and Beans
- Breakfast for dinner (he likes scrambled eggs and loves to make them himself)
What are Your Picky Eater Struggles?
Please share with me what your little one’s struggles are with picky eating. I’m always interested in knowing what other moms are going through and how they manage it. And who knows maybe we can work together to find a solution. Thanks for reading!