Got a picky eater on your hands? Hiba Van Dyk, co-founder at Chubby Cheeks Organics (a Toddlers and toddler meal plan delivery service) shares her top tips – gained from trial and error experiences – to ensure they eat well.
1. Give Your Kids Variety
All healthy choices of course. It sometimes helps to have them think they chose a particular dish or meal on their own. Yes, a large part of parenting is mastering the art of being sneaky – you know it’s true!
2. Let them Prep
They can be your little sous-chef while you’re preparing meals. It’s a fun and, more often than not, very messy experience but they then feel that they made their own food and might be more inclined to eat it. My son is more of an observer. He likes to sit on the counter and just ask a whole bunch of questions revolving around “Whatcha doing? Whatcha making? What’s that?” It’s like having my own cooking show. Even if the meal is already prepared, they can be just as involved. Ask them to choose their favourite plate and have them spoon it into their bowl themselves and help you set the table.
3. Educate Your Toddlers
My son loves to hear songs about fruits and vegetables. It gets him excited and he’ll start singing the songs he learned while he’s eating. I know so many food related songs, I wake up singing them.
4. Play “I spy” with their Daily Meals
For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that’s green and looks like a tree. Can you find it and eat it?” Sounds silly but it works like a charm. It’s also absolutely adorable when it’s their turn to spot something.
5. Lead by Best Example
If you haven’t given them a choice, as mentioned in the first point, then make sure you are eating whatever you have given them to eat. If everyone at the table is eating the same thing, it will encourage them to do the same.
6. Create a Healthy Eating Habit
At “meal time” we all sit at the table together and eat. It is separate from play time, nap time, and all the other “times.” Routine is so important for children.
7. Be Persistence
Try and try again. Some children need time to acquire or re-acquire a taste. We follow our lovely pediatric dietician’s, Jordana Smith from Infinity Clinic, advice. For picky eaters, she advises consistently showing them the food they aren’t fond of and exposing them to it but in small portions. For example, if they don’t like peas, put two or three peas on their dinner plate each night. The idea is that if they keep seeing it, they will eventually eat it.
8. The Magic of Hidden Veggies
Yes, we’re back to being sneaky. You can feed them nutritious food day in and day out and then bam, you’re hit with the “I only want pizza or pasta” phase. We’ve been there and luckily it does eventually pass. This is where a food processor comes in handy. Pulse some veggies and cook them in your lasagna, for example. Want pizza? Sure. Little do they know the whole pizza crust is made entirely out of cauliflower (FYI, we make the most divine cauliflower pizza your children will love!). There’s no flour in it and your children will literally be having a whole slice full of vegetables without even knowing it. We don’t recommend hiding veggies all the time though because our aim is to encourage healthy eating habits that will carry on throughout their lives. If children thought they grew up eating pizza and pasta they might carry that habit on. Having said that, we also understand the need to be sneaky every once in a while.
9. Buy Yourself Some Cookie Cutters
Stars, hearts, triangles, circles – all sorts of shapes. Some days my son just doesn’t feel like eating. Those are the days his plate turns into an explosion of shapes and it works wonders.
10. Let Your Guard Down Sometime
At the end of the day they are kids and let’s face it, cotton candy is fun to eat. Let them have junk food every once in a while. Adults are allowed cheat days, so why not children? Moderation is key though. As long as healthy eating is the norm in your household and junk food the occasional exception, you’re doing just fine.