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#27: Growing fine, but SO picky (Tips to overcome picky eating)

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Should you be worried about their picky eating if they are at a healthy weight and they are growing well? 

Maybe the pediatrician has told you not to worry about it when you ask questions or try to talk about their limited diet. 

About FTME

Welcome to Feeding Toddlers Made Easy, I’m Kacie Barnes, RDN, MCN, mom of a 7 year old who was previously extremely picky so I GET IT with what the picky eating is like, and a 4 year old who eats almost anything, which I just got lucky with. I’ve worked with hundreds of families on picky eating and field questions every day so on top of my nutrition background and expertise I have the experience to know truly what works and what doesn’t. Take a second to hit “follow” on the podcast, I really appreciate you being here and honestly I just love that you’re taking a step to understand your little one more and help them in whatever way you can. I truly have the best parents in my community.

Here’s today’s question from Nikki:

Hey there, my name is Nikki. My daughter Charlotte is 4 and 1/2 years old now and she used to try foods all the time. She used to love all kinds of vegetables. Ultimately now, she’s just mainly a little fruit bat, my husband and I call her.  And now she lives off chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and pizza. If I had to be honest, we are looking for answers. We are new to your podcast and new to your website looking for answers as far as to what we do? She’s growing fine. She’s at all her weight levels of where she should be, not overweight. She’s perfectly fine. So maybe we’re just stressing it over nothing and just need to keep on the journey. Thanks for everything we love your website. Have a great one.

Overcome Picky Eating

What do you do when you can’t get them to eat the things that they used to? 

Some of this is in your control and some of it is not. Let’s review what is in your control. 

  • What you serve – continuing exposure to all different types of foods, even when they are no longer eating them. Like how Charlotte used to love vegetables but now strongly prefers fruit.
    • Remember: Fruit is not a bad thing! Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants–  these are disease fighting properties that are healthy and important for your child to get, whether they get them from fruit or veggies.
  • When you serve it – avoid grazing, avoid snacks too close to mealtimes so they come to meals hungry.
  • How you introduce new foods – if just putting new foods on their plate or putting them on the table is NOT getting you anywhere, you need a different approach. Forcing them to eat it is also not a long-term solution.

What’s not in your control?

  • if/when they are going to eat these foods again.
    • Like I said, you cannot force them to eat something and if you do, it likely is going to make dinnertime very stressful for everyone, and perpetuate their resistance to try new foods. So you should offer new and different foods, but that is the win right there! You have to let go of when they eat it because that’s not something you can easily control.
    • Free yourself of that responsibility. You’re not giving up on their nutrition or their acceptance of new foods. But you’re acknowledging that the PROCESS is in your control, the PROGRESS – not as much.

What should you do to help overcome picky eating?

#1. Try the rotation rule. To get out of a rut, don’t serve the same exact food 2 days in a row.

#2. Take note of how she responds when you serve new foods. Does she completely freak out? Does she ignore it? Does she push it off her plate? Does she investigate it at all?

Still continue with serving foods she likes in addition to trying new foods. When I say this, people will ask me, well if I also give them food they like, aren’t they just going to eat that? Yes, they are. But they’re not more likely to eat the foods they don’t like even when they are the only thing on the plate. If you have a very flexible eater then yes, they probably would go ahead and eat it. But I’m guessing that if you’re listening to this, you don’t have an adventurous, flexible eater. 

If they rather NOT eat than eat something that is new/unfamiliar/unliked, that’s sending a pretty clear message that they are not ready with that food. That’s okay!! Just because you made it doesn’t mean they have to like it today.

#3. Start teaching the message that it can take a lot of trying to like a new food. And sometimes we eat foods that aren’t our favorite, but we need to give fuel to our car engine. It’s important that they learn that not every meal is going to be mind blowing. So think about what she likes in addition to nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza, and fruit. Doesn’t have to be things she LOVES. Just things that she typically will eat. Those are the things that you’ll serve when you’re not serving nuggets/mac and cheese/pizza. 

  • It IS possible to expand that list of foods they like and are willing to eat so there is hope, it’s just not a quick process. Which is frustrating.
  • We go through that process in Simple Steps to Picky Wins, my picky eating course that is re-launching as a community in just a few weeks so that I can be there to provide support and answer questions as you go.

Weight and growth with a picky eater

Last let’s talk about weight and growth. Many kids do maintain a healthy weight and grow well even when they don’t have a large amount of foods they accept or a totally balanced diet. That’s a wonderful thing! I’m so glad to hear when kids are growing well despite being picky. And that is number 1. Before I worry about their overall nutrition, their growth and development is the MOST important piece. So if your little one is having trouble maintaining a good weight, their weight keeps dropping percentiles, I want you to worry less about their picky eating and more about getting them enough calories

But if weight and growth are good and you’re still struggling with picky eating, I do think it’s still worth addressing, obviously, this is my job so of course I think it’s worth it. But honestly, being a more flexible eater is an important life skill, beyond just getting in good nutrition. There are so many times that you need to eat and you are not in total control of what that food is going to be. They go to a friend’s house, they go to a party, or a holiday gathering. They are going to feel much better if they are able to eat something there. So continuing to help them through this process (instead of just accepting that they only eat 3 things) is a really helpful thing you can do for them.

If you have questions about today’s episode or there’s a topic you want to hear more about, please go to mamaknowsnutrition.com/podcast and either submit it there (just scroll down and you’ll see the box) or call the podcast voicemail, it’s 469-552-5527.

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