4 Tips to Keeping Your Picky Eater Healthy
Dealing with kids who are picky eaters is a right of passage for parents. Just scroll through posts on any parenting blog and you will find lengthy conversations, many quite humorous, about the lengths parents will go to to get these children to eat. However, children who are extremely picky can develop diets that are so limited that they become deficient in many important nutrients which can lead to serious health concerns. So what should you do about your picky eater? Here are a few tips to consider.
Check For Underlying Causes
Although being selective about what they will or won’t eat is common with children, if your child’s diet has become so limited that you are concerned about their health or if their picky eating comes with digestive issues, it may be time to consult your doctor. Food sensitivities can indicate real health concerns such as gluten sensitivity or some autoimmune diseases that affect digestion. These issues will often require a specialized diet in order for your child’s body to process foods and heal. Revealing any underlying causes for your child’s limited diet can solve your issues almost overnight.
Supplement Their Diet
If you’ve ruled out any medical conditions, then it’s time to start thinking of ways you can supplement your child’s diet to be sure they are getting the nutrients they need while they express their independence through their food choices. You can’t go wrong with a good daily vitamin and mineral supplement. Don’t go for the brightly colored ones that are coated in sugar. Get a good quality vitamin suited for your child’s age. Probiotics might help with digestive issues, but you should check with your doctor first. Probiotics for adults are sometimes not suitable for children, but there are plenty of child-specific probiotics you can look into.
Beyond supplements, think of other ways you can sneak some good nutrients into your child’s diet. You could try offering them a smoothie for breakfast. You’d be surprised how many veggies you can sneak into a good smoothie and still have it taste like a dessert. If you’re concerned that your young one isn’t getting enough protein, a high-quality protein powder can be added to pancake batter, mixed into peanut butter or added to that morning smoothie. There are a lot of sneaky ways to make sure that your kids are getting their nutrients even while they are refusing most of the foods you set in front of them.
Have Them Cook With You
Having your child share meal planning and cooking with you is a great way to get them to eat. You can have great conversations with them about healthy eating while you plan out family meals and help them to understand the importance of a varied diet. Even young kids can help out in the kitchen by tossing salads, pouring pre-measured ingredients and being the chief mixer. They will be proud of what they’ve made and taking part ownership of the meal increases the likelihood that they will eat it.
Implement a Reward System
It is not recommended that you punish your child in any way for their food choices. This can cause negative food associations that can affect their eating for the rest of their lives. You can consider starting a reward system for eating certain foods. If your kid is really picky, start by rewarding them for just taking a single bite of the healthy foods they are avoiding. You can raise the stakes as you go along. Simple reward systems work well here. Many parents make a trip to the local dollar store and fill up a small treasure chest with fun little toys and games. When your child fulfills his eating goals, he gets to choose something from the treasure chest.
Picky eating will usually pass in time. If you are concerned about nutrient intake, use common supplements and creative solutions to make sure they are getting what they need as they go through this phase. Including your child in meal planning and meal prep will give them ownership over their food and a fun reward system will provide the incentive to expand their diet.