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15 Tips for a Picky Eater By Johanna Hicks

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Johanna Hicks, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, 1200-B W. Houston, P.O.Box 518, Sulphur springs, TX 75483; phone: 903-885-3443;
fax: 903-439-4909; [email protected]

Picky eaters can be challenging, but there are many tips to help children consume the nutrients they need. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides the following suggestions:

  1. Offer a nibble tray: Use an ice cube tray or muffin tin and put bite-sized portions of colorful and nutritious foods in each section. Call these finger foods playful names that a two-year-old can appreciate, such as apple moons (thinly sliced apples), banana wheels, broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets), cheese blocks, egg canoes (hard-boiled egg wedges), little O’s (oat ring cereal). Place the food on an easy to reach table. As your toddler plays, he can stop, sit down, nibble a bit and continue on his way. These foods have a table life of an hour or two.
  2. Dip it: Young children enjoying dipping foods, which can be pure fun (and delightfully messy). Possible dips are cottage cheese, cream cheese, peanut butter (thinly spread), guacamole, pureed fruits, or yogurt.
  3. Top it: Putting nutritious favorites on top of new and less desirable foods is a way to broaden a finicky toddler’s menu. Favorite topping are yogurt, melted cheese, tomato sauce, applesauce, peanut butter, or grated cheese.
  4. Drink it: If your toddler would rather drink that eat, don’t despair! Make a smoothie together. Milk and fruit, along with supplements such as juice, wheat germ, yogurt, honey and peanut butter can be the basis for a very healthy meal.
  5. Package it: Appearance is important. Use your child’s own toy plates for dishing out a snack. Or, use anything from plastic measuring cups to ice cream cones.
  6. Become a veggie vendor: Vegetables require some creative marketing. Although kids should be offered 3 to 5 servings a day, for children under five, each serving need be only a tablespoon for each year of age. Try the following tricks: plant a garden with your child. Let them help plant, harvest, and wash the produce. Slip grated vegetables into favorite foods – add them to rice, cottage cheese, or even macaroni and cheese. Use a small cookie cutter to cut vegetables into interesting shapes. Make veggie art by creating colorful faces with olive slice eyes, tomato ears, mushroom noses, bell pepper mustaches and other playful features.
  7. Share it: if your child is going through a picky-eater stage, invite a child’s friend who is about the same age, and serve them together. Group feeding lets the other kids set the example.
  8. Respect tiny tummies: Keep food servings small. A young child’s stomach is approximately the size of his fist. Dole out small portions at first and refill the plate when your child asks for more. This “less is more” meal plan is not only more successful with picky eaters, it also has the added benefit of stabilizing blood sugar levels, which in turn minimizes mood swings.
  9. Use “the bite” rule: “Take one bite, two bites…” (however far you can push it without force-feeding.) The “bite” rule gets your child to taste a new food while giving them some control over the feeding.
  10. Make it accessible: Give your toddler shelf space. Reserve a low shelf in the refrigerator for a variety of your toddler’s favorite nutritious foods and drinks. Whenever they want a snack, open the door and let them choose one.
  11. Use sit-still strategies: One reason toddlers don’t like to sit still at the family table is that their fee dangle. Children are likely to sit and eat longer at a child-sized table where their feet touch the ground.
  12. Let them cook: Children are more likely to eat their own creations, so when appropriate, let them help prepare the food. Use cookie cutters to creative edible designs from cheese, bread, thin meat slices, or cooked lasagna noodles. Let them wash and tear lettuce, stir batter, or scrub potatoes. Put pancake batter in a squeeze bottle and let your child supervise as you squeeze the batter onto a hot griddle in fun shapes such as hearts, numbers, and letters.
  13. County in inconsistencies: Don’t be surprised if your child eats a heaping plateful of food one day and practically nothing the next; adores broccoli on Tuesday and refuses it on Thursday. Remember that the only thin consistent about toddler feeding is inconsistency. Simply go with these mood swings and don’t take them personally.
  14. Relax: Sometime between their second and third birthday, you can expect your child to become set in their ideas on just about everything – including how food is prepared. If the broccoli must be at the top of the plate and the cheese in a bowl, but you put the cheese on the plate and broccoli in a bowl, be prepared for a protest. Better to learn to serve the food the child’s way. Don’t interpret this as being stubborn – it is a passing stage.
  15. If at first you don’t success, try , try again. Be patient. You may need to offer a new food 10 or more times before your child will accept it.

Upcoming Events

  • May 6, 9, 13 and 16: “Be Well, Live Well: Healthy Aging”, 10:00 a.m., Hopkins County Extension Office, 1200 W. Houston, Sulphur Springs. This is a free program series, but please call 903-885-3443 to reserve a seat so I can make adequate plans.
  • Saturday, May 18: Twogether in Texas Marriage Education workshop, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Extension Office. Lunch and refreshments provided. Engaged couples will receive a certificate to save $60 upon applying for a marriage license. Topics include: marriage expectations, communication, conflict resolution, money management, goal-setting. There is no charge, but couples must call to reserve seats – 903-885-3443.

Closing Thought

“Be bold in your caring, be bold in your dreaming and above all else, always do your best.” – former President George H. W. Bush


Quick Hawaiian Pork

  • 2 pounds lean pork roast (cut in 1-inch cubes)
  • 14-oz can pineapple chunks in juice
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  1. In large skillet, combine meat, pineapple with juice, vinegar, and ginger.
  2. Cover and simmer one hour.
  3. 3. Serve over rice. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information (per serving): 221 calories, 34 g protein, 6 g total fat, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber

Source: The Diabetic Four Ingredient Cookbook

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Author: Faith Huffman

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