Motherhood Truth: “Picky Eaters”

Since becoming a mother, I have faced more criticism in these last three years than my entire 36 years combined. From our parenting style, to lifestyle choices and what we feed our child.  Social media has a way of distorting reality – more often than not, unrealistic pictures are painted leaving some of us more open and honest moms feeling a bit sub par. I started noticing comments on my posts (and others) making snap judgments, placing blame and using that freedom of speech a bit too much. Being a mom is constant learning process and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. Yes, mistakes will be made along the way, but WE ARE HUMAN. I think it’s important to find a support network of other mothers who will make you feel empowered, provide guidance without judgment and have an open line of communication. That is why I have decided to start a series of “Motherhood Truth” topics where we share tips, tricks and ideas that might be able to help any other mothers out there who might be facing the same struggle. So, stop comparing your “imperfections” with those who appear to be perfect…I’ll fill you in on a little secret…most people do not openly share struggles and only share the good, positive moments (clean house, well-groomed child, good behavior, etc.). This series will be somewhat of a journal – a very candid, honest look at some mama truths.

trust_issues-11

Today we’re talking about “Picky Eaters” – I honestly don’t really like that word, picky, I prefer “selective.” Maybe it’s because I do in fact have a current “picky” eater. It wasn’t always that way. When Willow was first introduced to solids, she ate anything and everything we put in front of her! Mashed peas, carrots, cauliflower, avocado, squash….the list goes on. As time went by, she learned what she loved and wanted nothing else. Growing up, and I know my mom will confirm, I was a picky eater. I would be left at the dinner table crying because I didn’t want my veggies. Me! The kid who at age 12 announced she was going vegetarian. Our preferences and tastes change – we all go through phases of foods we just can’t get enough of and foods we could really do without. I used to hate mushrooms, was afraid of Brussels sprouts, I still have a strange relationship with peas, and used to be terrified of trying anything new. Today, I absolutely LOVE veggies! There is hope for you and your “picky eater” and as one of my IG friends told me, “Miracles do happen!”

She LOVED all foods in the beginning!

strawberry love

Motherhood Truth: Picky Eaters // Be Sol-Ful

She tried some cantaloupe, but didn’t like it! It’s hit or miss with this fruit!

I’ll never forget when I shared a bit on Instagram about my battle with picky eating. Most of the feedback was reassuring and encouraging, but some people placed the blame on me as a parent for Willow’s finicky ways. I realize that I open myself up for criticism when I share some truth, but I do it with the hope that someone else will say, “No way?! Me, too!” I believe in being honest and real – never pretending that struggles don’t exist.

Before we dive into some tips and tricks, below I have provided a short list of blogs (my go-to sites) that have some great kid-friendly recipes!

http://thevegan8.com

http://vedgedout.com

http://www.veggiesdontbite.com

http://crueltyfreefamily.com/

http://vegetariangastronomy.com

http://plantpoweredkitchen.com

http://ohsheglows.com

http://minimalistbaker.com

http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

chia girl

Here our some tips and tricks that help in working with our selective eater:

  • We have the most success at breakfast time (mostly because she’s often times not hungry come dinnertime) so we take advantage and pack in as many fruits & veggies – usually in the form of a smoothie. We’re able to add in spinach or kale, spirulina (and other superfoods), carrots, and various fruits. Lately, Willow is the one requesting a green smoothie – makes me feel like I’m succeeding a bit!
  • Make food FUN! Turn fruits, veggies, pancakes, sandwiches and more into fun shapes! Cookie cutters of all sizes can help make meal times more appealing. Also, incorporate a lot of color.
  • We DO NOT force Willow to eat something she’s not interested in and we most definitely do not force her to clear her plate. We do, however, do our best to encourage her to try new things. Along the same lines as not forcing, we just let her be at dinner – we have found that focusing more on what’s in front of us (on our plates) and not what she is or isn’t eating, allows her to discover for herself. She DOES NOT like us to watch her eat.
  • Don’t freak out if she doesn’t want to eat – realize that kids will tell you when they’re hungry.
  • Willow isn’t a fan of certain textures, so we keep that in mind – we’ll puree veggie soups as opposed to leaving them chunky – which also allows us to sneak in extra veggies that she wouldn’t ordinarily eat.
  • We also keep in mind the foods that she DOES love and play on that. One of her favorite meals is mac n cheeze with my homemade cheeze sauce – it has hidden veggies in it such as carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, but sometimes we change it up and use the usual cashew base and add in red bell pepper or recently spinach.
  • Continue to talk about the importance of vegetables – they keep us healthy, help us grow strong. Be honest about ingredients.
  • Be the example and eat our veggies/fruits – also dramatically emphasize how delicious something is…tends to peak her interest which leads her to take a bite or at least smell foods.
  • Provide dips/sauces for veggies and new foods.
  • Involve her in grocery shopping and food prep – all the while discussing what each ingredient is and their benefits.
  • Make things bite size or smaller and we tell her that we made it “Willow size” – just for her. She gets really excited!
  • Limit her snacks – less snacking means eating more at meal times…also increasing our chances of her trying new foods.
  • Praise her for trying new foods and/or eating well.
  • This last one doesn’t always work, but there’s an episode of Daniel Tiger that she really likes: Be a Vegetable Taster/Daniel Tries a New Food – and within that episode is a strategy song and we occasionally remind her, “Try new food, it might taste good.” Sometimes she’ll actually take a bite and try it.
Motherhood Truth: Picky Eaters // Be Sol-Ful

Smoothies are our go-to way of packing in all the nutrients. This one here has lots of blueberries and spinach.

little helper

Here are some tips and tricks from a few of my favorite Instagram mamas!

Tara (@unschooling_mama):

“As a mother of 4 children, picky eaters is a topic I’ve struggled with often. Like everything, sometimes I handle it with grace and acceptance, while other times it drives me crazy. But mostly these days I’m pretty calm about what my girls eat (or don’t eat).
I also remember being a very picky eater as a child and that feeling of being bullied and abused into eating food still hurts and has formed poor eating habits (that I have worked to overcome) as an adult. So I really try hard to be respectful of my girls and honour their spirits by not coercing, punishing, or forcing eating.

Here is what is currently working for me:

– raw veggies: almost Every lunch and dinner in my house includes a side of cut up raw veggies. I know my girls will always eat carrots, cucumber, broccoli, avocado, and celery. So if I’m making casserole (that I know they will likely not eat) I feel good knowing they at least ate some veggies.

-“build your own” dinners: We do this with salads, rice bowls, burritos, sandwiches, pizza. I prepare everything separate and arrange it on plates on the counter and allow my girls to each make their own dish. It’s fun and gives them a chance to feel like they are in charge if making healthy choices.

– try once: I put a small amount of a disliked or new food on my girls plate, and I nicely ask them to try at least one bite. But I don’t force or bribe them, if they say no I just let it go. It seems to work best, and sometimes these once hated foods become new favourites. I don’t engage in food battles and try to stay zen 😉 ”

Jeni (@jteel7):

“I always find the number one way to get my daughter to try something new is to let her make it herself. And also, I keep the ingredients to a very short list. Too many flavors at once will send her taste buds into overload! And most of all, I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles and tend to just give in and make her the same thing again and again…I just really feel that if she is fed, healthy and happy, then ultimately, I’ve done my job! My go to website for fun and healthy kid meals is weelicious.com! Her vlogs are hilarious! ❤️ ”

Jaime (@happy_fit_vegan_mama):

“So, luckily my kids are fairly good eaters for the most part, but then again maybe it isn’t luck at all…?
I’ve always fed them a fairly diverse array of food, including lots of veggies, fruit, legumes, whole grains etc. I’ve also always tried to make things/recipes healthier by adding extra ingredients like hemp hearts, hemp protein, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, coconut oil etc into baking and such.
There have definitely been spurts of pickiness along the way, and I used to really stress about it, but I’ve realized that it’s pretty normal and  kids tend to go through this from time to time. I just keep offering the healthy stuff, but let them choose what they want to eat. They have always come back around. If it’s just peanut butter sandwiches and apples for a couple of days, no big deal.
My oldest was a pretty big fan of green smoothies, so that always made me feel a little less stressed about his diet. My second never liked smoothies, so that kind of stressed me out a bit, but I gave discovered that he really likes the Vega One Nutritional shake, so we do that a few times a week.
I try to make a lot of stuff from scratch and try to avoid the sugar and preservative laden pre-packaged food. Of course this isn’t always possible, but at least I know that the majority of their diet it nutritionally sound.
My sister’s son is very, very picky, and will only eat white buns, vanilla yogurt, cheese, apples and a couple other things. From what i can see, she basically just gave up trying to feed him different things, and gave in to his pickiness. I think maybe that has contributed to his continuing pickiness. My feeling is that we should keep offering the healthy options, but not force them. And obviously be a good role model as parents be eating the healthy stuff, and kids will often follow suit. Also, I think that we need to tune into our kids a little more. Just as everyone learns differently, I feel that everyone eats differently. Pay attention to what they like and dislike (the way a food is prepared, whether food is touching on a plate, whether they like casserole type foods or eating more plain foods etc), and keep that in mind when preparing them food. Offer new things, but always have something you know they’ll like as well.”

Somer (@somermccowan):

Somer provided a great link to an article about picky eating…please check it out!

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7139710

Molly (@mcoope34):

“The most important goal is: to get the toddler to eat what is necessary for their daily intake of all the different food groups/recommended totals. What that means is that I always provide a grain (typically brown rice or quinoa), a vegetable (either steamed or roasted), and a protein (this could be anything from tofu to beans, anything soy, or even nuts/seeds – so a pbj totally works). Fruit is optional because he always has fruit type snacks (like apple and pb) thru the day. I get creative.. sometimes we make the beans or chickpeas into a dip or hummus… he likes really simple flavors. It’s hard because I refuse to cook him a separate meal, but I know he’s picky… so I just prepare. While I’m cooking, he snacks on veggies, cold beans, and other things.. He likes things that are simple and have a little sea salt on them.. when flavors get complex or food is all mixed together.. he doesn’t like it. So here’s my secret… if I’m making something that has a sauce (like general tao’s tofu or roasted bbq chickpeas), I just give him that protein without the sauce (so I separate it out before I mix it all together). It’s much easier to give him everything separate before anything is mixed! Since I know Liam isn’t a big fan of change or flavor I’ll then take the beans (whatever kind) and flavor them with cumin, garlic, and sea salt – that’s his go-to protein. If it’s tofu, I’ll give him raw tofu or just baked with a little salt/pepper on silicone mats.. so I don’t even use oil. We don’t do a lot of soy, so we focus a lot on beans/quinoa. 
 
Here’s another tip… give food in an order… I know Liam will always eat his protein (that’s his favorite part), so he gets his veggie first– he prefers to eat all veggies raw, so that’s what he normally will have, if steamed he gets a tad of sea salt… then his grain, then his protein.. followed usually with frozen blueberries if he eats his plate. I give him the correct portions (I measure all of our food out… ex brown rice – we all get 1/2 cup).
 
One last time… determine how many bites at the beginning of the meal. He usually has to take 5 to 10 bites of everything. If it’s new, he just has to have one bite and then more depending on if he likes it. Texture is HUGE for toddlers and I find it has a lot to do with the picky eaters. 
 
So all in all, simple flavors and keep it as raw or unseasoned as possible. I never started him on sauces and I think that’s why he isn’t a huge fan. Also, reward with healthy foods (ex frozen blueberries, a few tortilla chips, or a green smoothie made to taste like chocolate milk). Never bribe with candy/typical desserts. 
 
I think parents get into big trouble trying to change it up. We get bored and want to explore… but that does NOT mean your toddler does. It’s easy to get frustrated and just start giving the kid processed junk because they’ll eat it. Just stick to what you know and things will go much smoother.”
Corey (@consciousnonblonde):
“When they are toddlers, allow them to be in the kitchen while you are cooking and let them taste from a spoon or fork while cooking. For some reason it really worked with Makenna – she thought she was “big” and giving her opinion on the taste before she had to sit down and eat it. Also, we would let them and still do pick out a fruit or vegetable at the grocery store to fix for the whole family. Now that she is seven, she has her own cookbook and we pick one night a week, usually Thursday, and she selects a recipe and we make it together. I should also note that being in the kitchen with me, she has said it’s her favorite thing to do. Mama felt special when she wrote that in her book.”
Jenna (@breathofayogi):
 “I have had an extremely picky eater since his birth just over three years ago. At first I panicked, then I realized it was just a matter of patience and persistence, and understanding/learning what he did like and why he didn’t like everything else. For him a large part of the problem was texture. He would gag at all skins, loose pieces of food, and moosh, which made the initial “baby foods” out of the question. Once he began eating solids things did improve, but also because I had learned him better. Even today we have issues—daily—but I don’t react. I keep offering and I accept if he takes even one bite. I simply give him what he does like and supplement the nutrients I don’t feel he’s consuming enough of in his selective diet. Beyond that it’s, again, about having patience and remembering that all of life for them is a phase. It will pass, improve, continue to change. It’s also about getting CREATIVE with a picky eater. You give them different variations of each food until you find one they like. My son will tell you he hates potatoes because I served him mashed once; not a good idea and I should have known better. We had to avoid all forms of potatoes for quite a while. Now I avoid mashed and I only serve him oven or pan roasted without skins (to avoid texture and gagging that will surely turn him off once more). Veggies are very much the same way, I’ve tricked him a couple of times by putting them under the broiler, but lately that has only been a success with green beans. Bottom line: time, patience, and finding a balance between creativity and consistency in the kitchen. And smoothies for veggie supplementation whenever possible.”
Patricia (@drsmg16):

“1. Explain to them what the ingredients are but not in a fairytale way. I.e. I wanted my daughter to try curry rice so we told her a bit about how it was a traditional Indian dish and some of its roots. Or other interesting herbs for example that come from remote areas. I’m not a fan however of telling them magical stories that the beans come from Santa Claus 😉 who knows though, maybe that works for some! Also different ingredients help their bodies. I.e. the iron in spinach and it’s role in helping their blood or protein for building their muscles.

2. We have a Dr Seuss “try it try it and you may” rule. It’s from his story Green Eggs and Ham. I always use that phrase and reinforce that the kids should always try something, if they really don’t like it I won’t force them to eat it.

3. If I make something I know they like but they don’t want to eat it, I won’t force them to eat it but they can’t have any snacks until the next meal unless they finish it.

4. I try to involve them as much as possible, from picking the groceries, the recipes, cutting ingredients, blending, table setting, anything.

5. No one leaves the table till we are all done eating. This is easier said than done lol, but we try.”

Thank you to all who contributed! I hope this post helps some of you or at least helps you feel less alone.

If you have a picky eater, what are some of YOUR tips/tricks?! Feel free to comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

6 thoughts on “Motherhood Truth: “Picky Eaters”

  1. This was such an interesting, great article and I don’t even have a kid! Makes me want to go borrow someone else’s child and try some of these tips! Great job Mandy and everyone who contributed their thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha!!! Love it 🙂 Thank you for reading this. I was excited that some other moms were up to contributing some of their ideas. My hope is that this will be helpful to other moms! ❤

      Like

  2. Great writing! Being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding thing we can do, you are doing great. I went through this with 3 children (all grown now). Two of my grandchildren who I watch 3 days a week the 3 year old is going through this now. No big deal it will pass and he’s not starving lol. Hang in there your doing great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! Yes!!! Hands down the hardest, but most rewarding “job” I’ve ever had. It’s so reassuring to hear you say that it will eventually pass – haha! It’s so frustrating sometimes, but I’m working on not stressing over it as much. Thank you, again!!

      Like

  3. These are all great tips! Thank you! I just cam across your blog and really love it. I am not a vegan, but I aspire to be a much healthier eater as my little girl gets older. I have a 13 month old and I am already seeing her “selective” eating habits. We never force anything on her and always try to give her foods we know she likes and also try to give her variety. I noticed that cutting out snacking has made a big difference on what she eats at meal times. I also think that our Baby led weaning approach to feeding her from when she was 6 months old has made he a much better eater than I ever expected. Thanks again! I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes, but I can see that I will need a vitamix 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you SO much for the kind words! The selective eaters can be so frustrating, but from what everyone tells me, they grow out of it 🙂 We’ve recently learned that our daughter isn’t absorbing protein like she should, so now we have to feed her every two hours. Sounds like you’re doing a great job and that you’re in tune with your daughter.
      A Vitamix definitely comes in handy – we were fortunate enough to have received one as a gift for our wedding six years ago. I know they sell refurbished ones for significantly less and they’re in excellent condition….might be worth checking into. Thank you so much for commenting, it’s always nice to “meet” other moms! ❤

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s