Whole Story

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Raising Picky Eaters

By Paige Brady, August 17, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
Apple Sandwiches We all know kids are picky eaters, right? Let's teach them a new way to be picky. Pick whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies along with healthy proteins. Impossible? Not if you give them choices and very tasty food. A good place to start is by talking to your kids. Anytime is good but natural launching pad activities are when you are grocery shopping or cooking dinner. Get their brains thinking about what food does for us - how it helps us grow, keeps us healthy, gives us energy for sports, helps our brains learn and keeps us feeling good. Those topics easily transition into why it's important to eat healthy foods and not stuff that gunks up our bodies. Veggies and HummusEven very young children can understand the basics. That's why they are bombarded with commercial messaging -marketers know it works! Get your message in their ears whenever you have a chance. Of course, if you make it fun, that's all the better. Here are some ideas. Get Real Support your kids in choosing foods that look like…well…real food. Show your kids what carrots, bananas, beans and lettuce look like before they're harvested. Visit a local farm if you can. Help them see that fresh apples don't turn into fluorescent blue applesauce and strawberries don't turn into bright pink fruit chews without the help of a chemistry set. Challenge them to eat foods that haven't changed very much from growing in the field to being served on their plate. You can award stickers for every "real" food eaten. When they've earned 25 stickers, you could reward them with a special prize. Eat a Rainbow Edamame GuacamoleEncourage your kids to eat a rainbow of colors every day. (Natural ones, that is!) When shopping, ask them to help you pick out an assortment of colorful fruits and veggies. When you get home, keep them accessible! Pre-wash fruit and keep carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks and sliced bell peppers on hand for a quick, healthy snack. Make a chart and a game out of seeing how many days get filled up with all the colors in the rainbow. Hand Over the Reins Yes, sometimes kids balk at veggies and think the color green is reserved for frogs, trees and crayons. Giving them a say in the matter seems to help. Would you like to have broccoli or peas with dinner? Do you want your salad with lunch or dinner? Do you prefer cooked carrots or raw carrots? Note that the option is which veggie, not an option for no veggies. Offering favorite dressings and sauces to perk up a new food often helps too. Once a week, hand control over to the kids and let them create a menu for a family dinner. Ground rules: it must include a range of whole foods and kids get to help cook it (even if it does make a mess of the kitchen!). On Duty Whole Wheat SconesEnlist your kids' help in making sure the whole family is on the right track. For example, show your kids wheat growing in a field and explain how whole wheat berries are ground into flour to make yummy stuff like crackers and pasta. But with refined grains, the bran and germ are stripped away. Hey! Those are the most important parts for helping our bodies be healthy and strong. What a rip off! (Indignation seems to work especially well with grade schoolers who are forever looking to make sure they are being treated fairly on the playground!) Give your kids "duty patrol" where they can check up on menu plans, shopping lists and, if they are really into this whole patrol thing, ingredient panels on packaged foods. Turkey QuicheTruth? In our culture, all of this is hard. Many of the other kids at school are going to have food in their lunches that look and taste different. And with the way our food system is set up, the odds are stacked against parents. We have to keep working on educating our kids over and over and over again. We have to be willing to be the "mean parent" who doesn't serve what everyone else's parent does. But helping our kids navigate the minefields of our food supply is just as important as any of our other parental duties…and just as challenging and rewarding. We win some food battles and we lose some - I know I do. What battles are you winning and how?

 

23 Comments

Comments

Heather Schoenrock says ...
Hi, Great blog post! I just wanted to let you know about a demo that I did for WFM at West Paces Ferry last week. In conjunction with their Back To School event my biz partner Connie and I were making "sneaky chef" recipes using our company Jack's Harvest's purees. We put carrot puree in the mayo and made turkey, lettuce and cheese rollups on whole wheat tortillas, we added our Lip Smackin' Sweet Potato puree to brownie mix (divine!) and made smoothies with the carrot puree and mango purees. More sneak chef recipes are available on our website www.jacksharvest.com. The purees are a great way to make sure that the kiddos are getting their 5 a day.
08/18/2009 11:52:54 AM CDT
gina says ...
I think the key is to start young. The longer you wait to start introducing new foods, the more difficult it is to get them to eat the foods! I've watched my mom raise my younger brother without introducing many new foods (she did well with me, because she was much younger when she had me). The key is to start young, it really helps!
08/17/2009 7:54:10 AM CDT
Kimberly Kanner says ...
I am struggling with getting my daughter to eat healthy food in her lunch. She has a severe dairy allergy and I think other kids may make fun of her meals. So last year I had her buying lunch everyday, but I do not want to do that this year. Help me I feel overwelmed. She will not eat a banana, apple, or grape. She throws away the lunch I give her. She hates salad.
08/22/2009 9:24:12 AM CDT
MJ says ...
It's true that you have to start young and that it is really a challenge at times. We recently went on vacation and my 14 month old got to a point where she refused to eat. The great thing was she was refusing to eat the salty and overprocessed restaurant food and wanted the fresh fruits & veggies. Thank God there was a Whole Foods 20 minutes from the hotel because I had to go stock up on cereal, bananas, bread, cheese YoBaby yogurt and milk so that she only ate out at dinner. And for dinner we had to go to the buffets and all she wanted was a small portion of meat and fresh veggies and fruit from the salad bar. I'm going to do everything I can to keep her eating this way.
08/22/2009 5:04:34 PM CDT
Sara Shadbolt says ...
We raised our four kids on two mantras. One was "You don't have to LIKE it, you just have to eat it. You won't like everything in life." (Because I wasn't in a position to make four different meals each day...) The second was "You should say, I don't like it COOKED THIS WAY", which leaves your mind open to trying whatever it is prepared some other way in the future. They are all close to 40 now, raising children of their own, and they tell me that they are very grateful for both those lessons, because they all eat a very healthy and varied diet, and they never have to embarrass friends by refusing to eat whatever they are served!
08/24/2009 10:58:36 PM CDT
Karla says ...
I disagree that we shouldn't serve what everyone else parent serves - we *should* want both our kids and kids' friends to eat well. Of course I don't mean that we should eat highly processed foods or other unhealthy items just because they are easy. But we can make similar items that kids like, while making them healthier. Think of tacos, a popular kids' meal. Forget Taco Bell! Find whole grain wraps and fill them with organic beef, high quality cheddar cheese (as opposed to "cheese food"), lots of fresh lettuce shreds with exotic leafy greens, perhaps home grown heirloom tomatoes instead of tomatoes that were picked three weeks ago and more than 2,000 miles away. The same thing can be done with granola bars, casseroles, cookies ... everything we prepare!
08/21/2009 9:41:04 AM CDT
Sergio Cerda (Mexico) says ...
Great tips! Thanks!
08/21/2009 9:41:32 AM CDT
Jennifer says ...
I started my children off right from the beginning eating the way I would like them to eat. They hardly ever eat white bread. They know whole wheat to be the normal bread and the one that they like. It is so much easier when they don't know the difference. The only problem I am having is getting veggies into them. My 1 1/2 year old son will throw every single veggie on the floor. I have started hiding some extra veggies in his food to help get him the nutrients he needs. He thinks all the veggies are on the floor, but what he doesn't know is that some are in his tummy too.
08/20/2009 9:33:46 PM CDT
Susie says ...
My daughter, granddaughter and I are all vegan, so choosing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins is easy for us. My granddaughter is 2 1/2 years old and craves asparagus, broccoli, raw carrots, watermelon, blueberries, beans, nuts, etc. She gets soy ice "creams", cookies, cakes and pies too - all vegan - and not made with saturated fats or lard. It's an awesome way to eat if you're really interested in health.
08/21/2009 12:52:43 PM CDT
Kimberly says ...
Remember to make snacking fun for the kids. The famous "ants on a log" for example, in which you chop up some celary sticks, spread a little peanut butter, and place some raisins on top. There you have it! Ants on a log. Be creative and the kids will love it.
08/21/2009 1:16:05 PM CDT
Nicloe Austin says ...
Pizza Garden! Take it one step further and let your kids enjoy the rewards of not only making their own meal, but growing it. They are amazed by the process of planting, watering and watching fruit grow on their very own plant. They learn so many valuable things in the process that can be carried through life. Let them choose what veggies they want on their own personal pizza, grow them through the spring and finish it off by letting them create a great veggie pizza just they way they like it. You are guaranteed to have happy kids with a belly full of healthy foods.
08/19/2009 9:22:00 PM CDT
Aaryn Peterson says ...
I love this blog...my daughter started taking her lunch to school last year (1st grade) and it was my goal to give her yummy, healthy lunches, full of fruits and veggies and whole grains. She loved her lunched, but got plenty of comments from other kids, some who wished they got orange bell pepper slices, and some who though hummis was weird. I place a challenge on my girls when we go to the grocery store, we try to find one new fruit or veggie to eat. It cuts down on begging for toys and candy and we expand our good food choices!
08/26/2009 12:25:00 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
When they got to the picky stage, I discovered the "Sneaky Chef". I know that plenty do not approve of that method but it stopped arguments at the table. I kept introducing the healthier foods along with sneaking the vegetables into the foods that they would eat without fighting. Eventually they did eat the vegetables to which they had turned their noses up. Maybe it was because they became used to the tastes inside their foods and didn't realize it? Maybe it was because I stopped forcing the issue and let them come to the decision in their own time? I do not know. But it seemed to work for me.
08/26/2009 1:11:28 PM CDT
Saranna says ...
This year, I've started packing the kids' lunches every day. I don't let them drink the milk at school either. Only organic and hormone free products. It's been hard because whole, live foods are more expensive than highly processed, chemical foods. We even qualify for free lunches, but my husband and I think our health is a good investment. Some of the other kids at school have teased them, telling them that we're "crazy" for not letting them eat the school lunch. I know that I'm doing the right thing for them. I'm lucky enough that I was able to use my poor habits and health as a teaching tool. They've seen the changes in me and know that's what they want for themselves. I will let them choose a treat each Friday, but I make them read the ingredients and we talk about what each one is and what it does for our bodies or to our bodies. As this has progressed, they've started making better choices on their own. So, I think what has been helping me win these battles are the facts that I include my kids in the decision making process and they've seen my progress with my health for themselves. I live as I preach, I suppose.
08/26/2009 2:37:36 PM CDT
Saranna says ...
Kimberly, This may seem cruel, but don't allow her to eat the school lunch. Make sure that the admin knows that she can't eat there. Talk this over with them and tell them that she has these allergies. She may throw things away the first few days, but if she gets hungry enough, she'll eat what you send. Try a bit of positive and negative reinforcement. If she throws the food away, don't be afraid to tell her how much her lunch costs and make her do extra chores to work it off. Go and sit with her at lunch and make sure she eats it. A kid will do just about anything to ensure you don't come to lunch with them. Sure, she may get teased and it sucks, but a bit of razzing now is worth her health now and later in life. These habits she's forming are going to stick. I don't like salad either, or at least I didn't. Have you tried letting her drink her vegetables to ease her into eating them? Whole Foods carries some great greens mixes that you can put in apple juice. There's even a kid's chocolate mix that you could mix with soy milk. Anyway, I didn't like veggies for a long time. My parents indulged my picky eating. But after a few weeks of drinking these greens, I started to crave them. I still didn't care for the taste, but it comes. You have to retrain her taste buds. It won't happen overnight. There are also all sorts of fruits to try. No grapes, bananas or apples. What about oranges, nectarines, peaches, plums, figs, pomegranates, blackberries, strawberries... there's so many to choose from. She hates salad, so what about baby spinach? It's completely different. I think iceberg lettuce is icky still. What about snow peas and carrot sticks? Or those mini corns? My kids love those. I know it's hard. My daughter developed an eating disorder after her friend's mom was always talking about how fat this one or that one was. We came through it though. What they eat has such an impact on their lives. Don't let it get you down. If you need some more ideas or some more support, feel free to click on my name and it will take you to my website and you can get in touch with me through there. We've got to stick together. :)
08/26/2009 2:50:51 PM CDT
Victor Forseth says ...
My girlfriend and I have been converted to shopping and eating healthy. We are in the process of teaching my two sons how to eat healthy. The only hurdle is teaching this to their mother. I just want to thank you for posting such a great article for us to use and teach our kids.
08/26/2009 7:20:15 PM CDT
Laura says ...
When my kids were little I ran a preschool out of my house. Every day at lunch and snack times we talked about nutrition. Where did the food they were eating come from? What was it made out of? I never bought processed food. No Spaghettios, but whole wheat or tricolor pasta. Real food is a great way to teach colors too!
08/26/2009 10:21:39 PM CDT
Sheilah says ...
Great artlicle with exciting ways to grab children's attention. I was looking for new things to start out the school year right too. Perfect timing!!
08/27/2009 8:16:17 AM CDT
Jim says ...
Starting kids out early with healthy heating gets them used to the taste of good food. It will be what they expect. Peer pressure makes it hard during school, but if they like healthier food they won't be overly tempted with the junk food and pop. I also think it helps to get kids involved in the preparing and cooking of the healthy meals. Even stirring the pasta sauce is fun and helping. Have them put in the basil and oregano.
08/28/2009 10:07:29 PM CDT
Caleb says ...
I honestly think that the ONLY reason why kids notoriously hate vegetables is that the vegetables in most grocery stores taste really really bad!!! But when you start having super fresh organic vegetables carrots start tasting delectable again. I wish I had whole foods as a kid. I love you whole foods!
08/30/2009 6:22:50 AM CDT
Raine Saunders says ...
We need saturated fats for health - look at the way our ancestors ate - real meat, dairy, and organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, and sprouted and soaked grains. They did not eat soy, except in very small amounts, and it was fermented. They did not consume soy in the ways we do as modern society - the processed, industrially-produced soy products of modern life are toxic to our bodies, and should be avoided. Children in particular need plenty of healthy fats and proteins from real meat and dairy such as lard and tallow. Their developing brains and bodies need these nutrients to be healthy, to be able to grow, learn, and study in school. Think of all the health problems that are so pervasive in the modern world - especially to children - ADD, ADHD, diabetes, even high cholesterol - all due to processed diets. Feed your children well and their health will soar! Please visit our site for more information on healthy eating and living.
11/22/2009 2:19:28 PM CST
smita srivastava says ...
Making our little ones eat is not an easy task , but mealtimes can be a real fun with food art. Serving kids healthy food stuff in a creative style truly helps . I write a blog on art with healthy food stuff. LittleFood Junction is all about food display,garnish n presentation.From faces to animals to flowers & cartoons ,it shows jus how addictive it is to play with food.Its my creative space to rave about my edible creations for picky lil eaters.
10/08/2009 11:50:33 AM CDT
Olivia says ...
I'm a picky eater!!! & I LOVE whole foods.
06/07/2013 7:21:40 AM CDT