Healthy Eating Tips for Picky Eaters

mommeal time

I know that many moms struggle with feeding their children. Particularly if one, or more, of those children is considered a picky eater. I know because I fight this battle every.single.day. and have for the past 5 years. My 5 1/2 year old is the pickiest eater I know. I always tell people to imagine the pickiest eater they know and then times that by at least 5. He is that picky.

We’ve made some progress, but we still have a long way to go. It’s a journey. So many “picky kids” articles that I see are about how to get children to not be so picky. They focus on ways to foster more adventurous eating. And those are all great things. But one thing I found lacking when I needed it was how to get more nutrition into my son during his picky eating time, because it’s a process. He’s not going to be de-picky-fied over night.

So I thought I'd take the time to share some of my tips for how you can cope through the journey so that you can still get as much good stuff as possible in them through the foods they will eat.

Experiment with Different Grains

My son will eat almost any baked good I make. I’ve learned to use whole wheat flour, oat flour, barley flour, brown rice flour, and rye flour (freshly ground using a grain mill). These grains are much more nutritious than all-purpose flour. And 99% of the time he can’t tell a difference. A favorite in our house is this Multi-Grain Banana Bread.

Snack on Nuts and Cheese

My son hasn’t eaten meat in 4 years. He’s just no into it. And I’m okay with that. We’ve found that he loves string cheese and cinnamon almonds. They’re both great sources of protein and good for snacking on.

Heavy on the Fruits and Vegetables

My son will eat a wide variety of fruits. We rely on fruits heavily for snacks and at each meal. Unfortunately he’s not so enthusiastic with vegetables. I like to put grated vegetables or purees in foods I know he will eat. I know I’m not the first to think of this idea. There are even two books written on the topic, but it’d definitely helped us—and not just with the nutrition aspect.

Muffins are a big hit with him so I experiment there a lot. When he’s eaten zucchini muffins, for example, and tells me how much he loves them I make a point to let him know there was zucchini in it. I’m not sneaky about it. Because that has given him the confidence to realize—hey, I might actually like zucchini if it's good in this muffin! Pictured: Zucchini Cherry Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping.

Cold Milled Flax

Cold Milled Flax is a great way to get the omegas in their diet if they don’t eat fish. I like to add two to three tablespoons to most baked goods (just take out equal amounts of flour). It can also be stirred into oatmeal, applesauce, yogurt, or blended in smoothies. Two tablespoons provides 3 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, and 2800 mg of Omega-3. Five Grain Pancakes with Flax are a regular request in our house.

Look for Healthier Alternatives to Typical Treats

Instead of fruit snacks or candy we like to purchase fruit leather for special treats. They’re made with 100% real fruit and actually count as a fruit serving. They still satisfy that sweet tooth, but without the empty calories and sugar overload.

But Don't Ban Treats

Trust.Me. The second I tell my kids that they can't have "x," that's ALL they want to eat. Let them indulge on occasion. A good diet is really all about moderation. It's ok to have sweets once in a while.

And Remember Not To Stress

The picky ones can sense when you're stressed about their eating, which can so easily become a power struggle. Our Doctor always reminds us to think of the small improvements we’ve made and to think of his diet in terms of a 7 day period, not just 1 day. Over 7 days his diet looks much more balanced than when you focus on one bad day.

(Disclaimer: This advice is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace professional medical advice. These are just a few tips that work for our family.)

This mother of two, believes that part of the goodness in life is sharing good food with friends and family. She’s a WAHM determined to make family meal time a priority while providing a variety of healthy and delicious food choices. Katie blogs at goodLife {eats}, where she shares what she finds good in the kitchen and in life. Katie also works as a freelance writer and food photographer. She has contributed to Craftzine, Paula Deen Online, Tablespoon, and the Skimbaco Network. She resides in New Mexico with her husband and children.

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