Healthy Kids First: Picky Eater Holding Family Back from Meeting New Year's Resolutions?

By Mandy Curry on January 19, 2013 from Healthy Kids First via

 It’s January 2013 and like the 100 million Americans that make New Years Resolutions, you may have “eat right” or “develop healthy eating habits” on your list of goals for the year.  Most do!  It sounds like such an easy thing to do…until you try to include the family in your efforts.  Immediately, your challenges multiply and the goal becomes too big to handle. 


For parents that want their family to develop healthy eating habits, two road blocks inevitably come up every time:  picky eaters and a lack of time. 


I was at the hair salon yesterday.  The subject of healthy kids came up and just like clockwork, the usual scenario’s came up again.  In one, the child won’t eat anything.  The parent resorts to only a handful of meals just to get their child to eat (and those meals generally have no nutritional value).    The second scenario is a family without picky eaters but desperate for time to actually sit down and have a family dinner.  Torn between work, gymnastics, and soccer class, dinner is a quick grab-and-go sandwich or a trip through the drive thru. I’m devoting the entire month of January to scenario number two.  For now, let’s tackle number one.


Picky eaters plague household after household.  In most cases, the picky tendencies work themselves out at a young age.  In some cases however, that’s not the case.  

And despite our best attempt as parents, we are often the reason this lingers on for many years (sometimes even through adulthood). 


A few things to keep in mind:


            Kids tend to show wariness of new foods, especially between the ages of 2 and 6.  This is a normal part of their development process. 


            It may take a child 10-15 times before they develop a preference toward a particular food.  This is normal too.


            Children’s taste buds are very different from adults.  Most have a preference for sweets at an early age, and are averse to sour or salty foods.  These taste buds will continue to evolve and change as they age, so don’t be surprised if they like cooked carrots today but prefer them raw in a few years. 



As a parent, the most important thing we can do for our child is to help them through this time.  Giving in to their requests for frozen chicken nuggets every night or making multiple meals each night just to make everyone happy isn’t in the best interest of the child’s health. 


I was plagued with picky children and a picky husband.  It took a little time, but my husband went from eating spaghetti, pizza, and plain hamburgers (only) to a diet full of healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables.  Kale, Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots, Broccoli…he eats it all now.  The kids now shock me with what they’ll try too.  The dinner table now feels like a science lab.  Wow- it certainly wasn’t always that way.


If you’re ready to propel your family forward, here are a few simple steps to get you started:


1.       Making time for dinner as a family.  If even for 15 minutes a few nights a week, you’ll find this a great opportunity to experiment with new foods and talk to your children about the importance of eating healthy foods.  It’s nearly impossible to talk to kids about healthy foods when you’re in the car or going through the local drive thru. 

2.       Cook the same food- different ways.  My kids love cooked broccoli, but not raw.  They loved raw carrots, but not cooked.  It took a while to figure this out.  There’s nothing wrong with serving raw vegetables at dinner.  In fact, that’s the healthiest way to eat them as the cooking process can diminish their nutritional value.  Keep experimenting.  There are hosts of cooking applications for each food (steam, raw, sauté, roast, puree).  The options are plentiful.  Keep trying until you find the right one.

3.    Experiment with different vegetables.  Always serving the same vegetable at dinner doesn’t give our kids the variety of nutrients they need.  At any given season, you can likely find 20 different vegetables at your local grocery store. Choose fresh vegetables or even frozen vegetables (with no sauces or additives).  Steer clear of canned vegetables though as they contain sodium, preservatives, and artificial colors.  So that your child doesn’t panic at the site of a new food, serve a familiar vegetable with the new vegetable.


Some families find that they can quickly transition away from picky tendencies in just a few months.  For others, the process is a little longer.  Regardless, this is one of the most important things you can do for your family.  We need to fill their little bodies with as much nutrients as possible. 


Parents generally get a little defensive when I say this, but if you’ve never had a picky eater problem, then you’re probably not serving your kids the right foods.  This isn’t true in every case, but think about it for a minute.  What child objects to French fries, chicken nuggets, and pizza all the time?  It’s usually when we venture off that path that we start to meet the resistance. 


If you want to learn more tips to overcome picky eaters, then check out my most recent eBook, The Step-by-Step Guide to Overcome Picky Eaters.  It’s a free download that you can view on your computer, Kindle, iPad or smart phone device.  It’s filled with tips and techniques that will help your family.  It also contains a video bonus showing parents what a family-style meal looks like and why this is key to tacking picky eaters.


Best of luck with your 2013 resolutions and here’s to “eating right” for you and your family.      


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