A Dietitian’s Hacks For Feeding Picky Children

A Dietitian’s Hacks For Feeding Picky Children

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

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

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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