by Diana Ayers
(Do you have a picky eater at home? I am amazed at the creative ways my sister gets her son to eat healthy food! I asked her to share her best tips and she came up with these amazing tricks for picky eaters. Here is her list of hilarious, unique ways to get a toddler to eat! -Donielle)
This is an odd, but very effective way to get my picky toddler to eat. If you have an Alexa device, then you have the “Amazon Alexa App”. With this app, under “Communication”, there is an announcement feature. This is where, when my boy is being particularly naughty, I type in a message that Alexa then says, in her own voice. Something like “Ocean, take another bite”, or if he’s super badly behaved: “Ocean take another bite or I’ll delete all my Blippi songs”. He’s so baffled and excited that he takes another bite every time. As a bonus, it also might give him a healthy fear of technology.
This is a double goody. You can make your own popsicles with fruit only, no sugar added, and add some blended, frozen spinach. You absolutely can’t taste it. They will love it! And you can get them to eat some veggies by telling them they will get a popsicle, double win!
For the days when you don’t have time for that, fruit only popsicles are still a good fruit source, and they have plenty of delicious ones at the store. Just make sure it’s an all natural and no sugar added one!
Smoothies have always been my Hail Mary. Typically you can make the smoothie sweet with banana or even a nice, sweet mango. I add a lot of spinach or Swiss chard (because I grow it in my garden) and sometimes peanut butter for protein. This ALWAYS does the trick for my picky eater. But I don’t do it too often or it becomes a crutch. About a year ago it’s all he wanted. And I was known to even sneak in some chicken! I know, gross. But he liked it! The point being, if it is sweet enough, you can throw in literally any kind of veggie into a smoothie and they will unknowingly drink it. I don’t bother with the protein powders for kids though. My adice is to avoid those. Trust me, if they will eat a smoothie with chicken in it, they don’t need a sugary powder with additives.
When you are feeling lazy (and I’ve been there more often than not), I like Ripple chocolate milk with pea protein, I will take that and blend it with a bowl of veggies and, thank you ma’am, they’ve eaten more than you could have possibly bribed them too. They think they’ve won, but you know better.
Here’s another weird one (what can I say? I’m weird). My boy hates anything wet or squishy (unless drinkable). He wouldn’t do chicken or fish (even fried), even though I would beg and plead. He won’t eat it UNLESS it’s firm and cold the day after! So don’t give up on a particular food. Try preparing it different ways. He even likes it if I freeze it, AFTER fully cooking of course, then serve it to him frozen. This is mind baffling to me, but kids often have texture issues. While your working through them, think outside of the box.
Part of my success is focusing our meal times on just protein and veggies. I let carbohydrates be a sort of reward after, if they are still hungry. I don’t even put carbohydrates on the initial plate until everything else is gone. This cuts down the time I spend working hard at getting them to eat, yet let’s me know for certain they’ve got the good stuff in.
I find that for a picky eater, it is good to encourage them to try, and praise them for trying, even if they didn’t like it. Trying things further develops their taste buds. It can take many tries to develop a taste for something.
Gardening has been great for this. My son will try ANYTHING if it is fresh picked from the garden: bell peppers, tomatoes (which he doesn’t like at all for texture issues), Swiss chard, green onion, even herbs like basil, mint, thyme, and rosemary! The list goes on. He will try them, even if he knows he won’t like them, because it is so exciting to eat something you grew yourself! Of course be careful with this trick because I constantly stress to him NOT to eat ANY plant without asking Mom. Make sure they are old enough to understand this, if you are going to let them try it fresh picked.
I am a biologist, so I also want my son to love plants and learn about them, This is also a great way to teach about plants and plant care.
Try to do an activity before your child’s lunch meal time. If you are going to go to the park, make it 10:00 or 11:00 AM, so that right when they’re done playing, it’s lunchtime. I will then make sure I pack something healthy that will save well in the hot sun.
I find that nuts, or something with peanut butter for protein, save well. As for veggies – carrots are my usual go to, portable snack. After they have been running around, they are hungry and much more likely to eat a healthy lunch and drink some water, when you’ve only brought one option. Don’t even bring the crackers for this trick, they can sniff it out!
It’s so hard when you have a picky eater. You want to stick them in front of the TV and shovel food in while they aren’t paying attention, but it’s a crutch and a bad one at that. Trust me, I’ve been there. They become addicted to the screen. Finding different ways to engage them in conversation is a great one to help distract them while they eat. Discuss their favorite bugs and other interests. Sometimes I will break out my phone to show a picture of an animal in discussion, but I’d steer clear of videos, even if just animal ones, as I find videos make it more difficult to engage in discussion and further learning. For my hyper active one, sometimes there is some dancing with food time, if necessary.
Whatever the trick, whenever you get healthy food in, you are doing great mamas (and dads), Every stage of parenting has its difficulties!
Share your favorite picky eater tricks in the comments below! Try this healthy recipe for chocolate pudding with hidden veggies!
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