Mom Hacks for Picky Eaters
Some kids’ eating habits are enough to drive any otherwise sane mom mad. Kids can be so picky. They resist trying new things. Hell, they may even whip an avocado across the room if they get really upset. The path of least resistance — pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and more pizza — can be so tempting for busy parents … but don’t fall into that trap. You have the power to give your kid more nutrient-rich foods.
It helps if you groom them for fruit and vegetable greatness early on … and in the right order. “Give your kids green vegetables first so they acquire a taste for them,” said Deborah Yaffe, M. Ed., CPT, and mom-of-three. “Then introduce the sweeter vegetables that are more kid-friendly, such as carrots, and fruits.”
If you didn’t create the foundation for healthy eating from the beginning, don’t fret. Here are 5 healthy hacks to turn things around:
1. Make healthy snacks easy to grab and eat. Yaffe recommends having fruit washed and ready for kids when they return home from camp, school, or activities. “This way, the fruit will be the first thing they see when they come home hungry. If you’re at work when your kids get home, prepare the fruit the night before and put it at their eye level in the fridge. It really works.”
The tried-and-true celery logs filled with peanut butter (or any nut or soy butter) are also great grab-and-go snacks. The key is to have them ready.
2. Sneak nutrients into their favorite foods. “Organic baby food is a great trick to add nutrients to baked goods and sauces,” said Yaffe. “Kids don’t have a sophisticated enough palate to notice subtle changes.”
Yaffe uses 1 cup of coconut flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour in her chocolate chip cookies (instead of white flour). Granulated sugar is replaced with the equivalent amount of honey. Protein powder is also added to the mix. “My kids and their friends devour chocolate chip cookies with these substitutions,” said Yaffe. “They see a cookie and don’t analyze it, especially if it tastes good and is hot from the oven.”
Other ideas: Whip an avocado into store-bought chocolate pudding; it will be creamier and healthier … and they won’t notice a thing. Sneak cauliflower in mashed potatoes, butternut squash or sweet potato in macaroni and cheese, and zucchini in baked goods. You just have make the commitment to incorporate healthy additions into your food preparation.
3. Get the kids involved. Kids are inquisitive, curious little creatures who are always looking for new things to pique their interests. Teach them about food from the ground up. If they plant seeds that turn into vegetables, they’re more inclined to eat them. Same holds true if they hand-pick items from the farmers’ market. Food preparation chores that include healthy ingredients — giving them a kid-friendly knife to cut cucumbers or mushrooms, for example — make them excited to eat colorfully.
Another trick: Stage healthy foods to make them irresistible. Make a smiley face out of raspberries and blueberries in their morning pancakes. Put fruit on a skewer so it looks like a rainbow. Create a scene on their plates: Broccoli can be trees hiding a dinosaur. Use your imagination and your kids are more inclined to eat up.
4. Be patient and persistent. Research indicates that it can take kids a dozen tries or more to embrace a new food. So make sure you don’t give up too soon. Some parents swear by the one-bite rule … kids take one taste and spit it out if they don’t like it. If they take enough bites. they will get ultimately get used to the flavor.
5. Make it fun. Lay out a bunch of vegetables and encourage your kids to have a crunching contest. Table manners can slide in the interest of getting them to try red peppers, carrots, celery, and cucumbers.
Kids love variety, so accompany the vegetables with healthy dipping choices: hummus, yogurt-based dressing, cottage cheese. You may be surprised by how many nutrients you can sneak in if they’re laughing between bites.