A Dietitian's Hacks For Feeding Picky Children

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Feeding children can be a struggle. When our kids were toddlers, my neighbour and I would trade kitchen-table war stories at 9 a.m. “I just made three different breakfasts,” she would tell me, “and he wouldn’t eat any of them.”

The easiest thing to do is give in: “Here! Fine! Subsist on dino nuggets and dino nuggets alone!” you might say, ripping open another bag from the freezer. But kids do need “real” food — fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains — and getting them into the habit of eating it is a process that should start early on at home.

Luckily, registered dietitian Jennifer Anderson of Kids Eat in Colour has found some ways to make the process easier, and dare I say, delightful. Her Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with hacks for feeding even the pickiest children.

Anderson’s ideas are simple and realistic—there’s no need to recreate a bento version of “Starry Night.” The goal, she’s said, is to “expose kids to as much real food as possible.” Soon, they may even choose foods beyond spongy chicken moulded into a Stegosaurus on their very own. Here are some of my favourite tips.

Treat veggies like toys

Sometimes, it’s all about branding. Anderson writes that changing the words you use to describe veggies can work wonders. Now kids, go eat your broccoli—I mean, go play with your tiny trees!

Play the ‘Exposure Game’ to get your kid to eat veggies

This can be a real game to play with your kids, or just a mind game to play with yourself. Instead of forcing your kids to eat a vegetable, see how many times you can expose them to one. You get a point every time you show them a veggie or put one on the table, and they get a point every time they “see, touch, lick, taste or smell it.” Your goal is to get more points than your kid.

Let your kid “sneak food” from a snack drawer

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Kiddo sneaking food? Here's another #foodbattles post - one mom wrote "My son is sneaking food. What do I do?"⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ I have a stories highlight "snack drawer" that tells how we started a snack drawer for my son. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ ⁣We chose the contents of this drawer together. He wrote a list of things he wanted in it and I added a few things too. Watch the story for more about what foods were important to him!⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ For us, early morning is when the sneaking was happening, so that's when this drawer is available. He knows it's not available other times during the day.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ I find this strategy is helpful for older kids - perhaps 4 and up. Do you have a snack drawer?⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ ⁣✨Need help getting your kids to eat veggies? You can get my FREE picky eater guide in my bio @kids.eat.in.color.✨⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣#kidseatincolor⁣⠀

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On Instagram, Anderson shared that her son started sneaking chocolate chips every day when he first woke up. She says she could have handled this in a number of ways — disciplining him, hiding the chocolate chips or getting rid of them all together.

But she wanted to promote “dialogue, not secrecy,” so she came up with an idea to create a snack drawer with him. Together, they came up with a list of foods to include and the time frame in which the drawer would be available. (For Anderson’s son, it was in the early morning, when he was always famished.) This allowed her to set some parameters around snacking, while giving her son some independence.

Have an “unwanted food” bowl to stop your kid from throwing their dinner

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⁣⠀ My story: There we were, new parents with our adorable 11-month-old at a restaurant. Our friend was sitting with us. Our baby threw a piece of watermelon and hit her in the face. ???? #GoodAimBaby #WeAreTheWorstParentsEVER⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ I'm back at the @kids.eat.in.color #kidsfoodbattles series! One mom sent me this battle: "Food throwing & not bc he's finished eating. 11 month old."⁣ ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Also, before I forget, I'm discussing what kind of milk I use in my stories today. ????⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ ⁣I see a lot of "easy answers" to end food throwing. JUST do xyz. Weeeeeellll, as the mom to kids who never JUST follow any advice, here are a whole bunch of things to try:⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 1. Be reasonable. If you have an active 11-month-old do not expect more than 1-4 minutes of sitting at the table. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 2. Since you only have 1 min, have the food ready to go. If you pray or sing before a meal, do it before they sit down. Also, have them throw some balls and stuff before the meal. Try to get throwing out of their system.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 3. Show them the place to put food they don't want. For us, this was the cup indentation on the high chair tray. Our kid would have thrown the bowl. ????⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 4. Teach them to say or sign "all done". We made up a sign, where they put both hands in the air. And then immediately let them get down.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 5. When they throw food end the meal (or take away the cup, or spoon or whatever). This was impractical for us...especially since our son was having weight gain issues, so we didn't feel comfortable cutting off eating time. But it works for a lot of people. We did nicely remove cups, spoons, bowls, etc. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ 6. Oh, and my kids still threw food. All these things helped. But throwing is FUN. Take heart though, they grow out of it! By 2-2.5, things were a lot better. Hang in there!⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Do you have a funny food throwing story?⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀

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If you have a food-throwing toddler, setting aside an “unwanted food bowl” might make meals a bit less of a disaster. The best bowls for this are the ones with suction grips on the bottom (so they don’t end up throwing the whole bowl). “Take heart,” Anderson writes. “They grow out of it!”


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