Saturday, November 27, 2021
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Bringing Balance: Tips for Picky Eaters

Have you got a particularly stubborn & “selective” eater?  In my experience, most of the time this is not due to a particularly picky palate or sensitive gag reflex, but rather a combination of a child’s fear of the unknown and desire for control. If that’s the case in your family, there are lots of creative ways to get your “picky” child trying new foods and eating a more balanced diet.

Once of my top tricks with kids is based on my firm belief that our children are a lot more interested in food than we think and will soak up fun, interesting facts and be motivated to try new foods when they understand what those foods can do for them. The key is presenting the information in understandable, age-appropriate, creative ways.

Here’s a recent example from one of my real-life client families. A concerned parent came to see came to me because her 2 year-old son had been on a bit of a hunger strike since the fall, which had eventually led to her self-admitted bad habit of asking him each night what he wanted for dinner, and her cooking a separate not-so-healthy meal for him. She was worried that he wasn’t getting any protein and was relying on largely unhealthy carb-based foods.  We talked about the many healthy sources of protein she could try to incorporate into his diet, and then I suggested she come up with a fun way to motivate him to eat protein using a little education in the process. I gave her some ideas and here’s what happened that same week, with her son who had refused all meat for months on end:

“We tried 'measuring his muscles' three nights ago when we served some beef for supper because beef would make his muscles grow big and strong. I told him 'don't eat that until I get back with the measuring tape'. Thought I was being funny…he'd never eat that! Anyway, it was gone by the time I got back and we had to give him more to actually measure his muscles.  At that point he was so excited, he put too much beef in his mouth and had to spit most of it out, but he swallowed some of it!  He asks to have his muscles measured after every meal now. Great idea!!  My husband was amazed! – E. Lamond, Dartmouth, N.S.”

Sometimes, it’s actually as simple as that. If your child refuses to eat green veggies, come up with some fun reasons why she should. Of course you probably won’t have these at the tip of your tongue, that’s what the internet’s for!  Google “why is broccoli good for kids” and you will find all kinds of information on the health benefits of broccoli. Take that info and turn it into a “kid-friendly fact”.  One night when my kids were little I told them the healthy fat in wild salmon was brain food and that their brains would grow when they ate it, and then measured their heads before and after the meal.  Everyone at the table, including my neighbour’s kids, polished off the salmon and then compared head size.  My kids can also tell you that eggs are amazing because they contain every vitamin except vitamin C, and that sweet potatoes give them super-sight, just like carrots.  We call their morning smoothie, which has spinach, berries, banana, flax and almond milk in it, a flu-shot in a glass.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be fun.  

Try it, you just might be amazed!


Wendy McCallum, LLB, RHN, is passionate about providing busy parents with the tools & support they need to feed their families wholesome food, so everyone can play, learn, and feel better!  She is a mother of two terrific HRM kids, aged 8 & 9. For information and recipe ideas, visit her website.

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