Jaime Windrow No Comments

Successful Eating Habits for a Picky Eater

Feeding strategies for picky eaters

“My child was always a good eater, and now she won’t eat anything I give her! She is such a picky eater!”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this from parents over the course of my career, and I wish I had a simple quick fix for it.  Having picky eaters at mealtimes can cause frustration and stress for ALL family members, just not mom and dad. But taking charge now can hopefully get your child back on track so you aren’t battling mealtimes in 3 years from now. 

Many toddlers seem to become a picky eater around the age of 1 to 2 years old, but it can also happen at a later stage such as 4 or 5 years. Toddlers taste buds do change on a weekly, even daily basis, so keep in mind their “favorite foods” will come and go, and then come and go again.  But much of what is going can be testing boundaries, but there are cases when a picky eater is more than just that*. 

*If your child has a medical condition such as GERD, oral motor skill problems, food aversions, or a sensory processing disorder its recommended to work with a feeding team that may consist of any of the following: speech language therapist, occupational therapist, registered dietitian and of course your pediatrician. 

Children this age are naturally neophobic to food, meaning they are afraid of new foods. This is a common response and they will hopefully grow out of it sooner than later. Practice these recommendations to help with your picky eater and possible fear of new foods. 

Model! Studies have shown that children as young as 2 form dietary preferences that mimic what their parents are eating. So before you try to change your child’s eating behavior, the first step is to take a look at your own habits first. Make sure you practice what you preach! If you show excitement over eating healthy foods, in time they will too!  Family meals, while not always possible with schedules, is also another chance to model good eating habits.  Aim for this has many times per week as you can, and sit at the kitchen or dining table versus on the couch or anywhere else.  And keep the distractions to a minimum!  This means no toys, electronics or TV. 

Start early! Exposing your child to healthy fruits and vegetables at a very young age will help your child develop a larger range of food preferences. The choices they make later in childhood, as well as adulthood, usually mimic those early-on food exposures. In fact, many pediatricians are now making recommendations to start with vegetables, such as sweet potato and avocado, when introducing solid food to infants rather than the traditional single-grain cereal such as rice. If you are already beyond these years, use the other tips listed below.

Be patient! Research has shown that it can take multiple exposures (5 to 100 times) to new foods before a child learns to like it. Eating habits are learned behaviors, so keep offering in a non-forceful way. With a positive approach, ask your child to try the new food, but remember it will be up to them if they choose to eat it. A small bite may turn into a big bite after they’ve seen it a few times, so don’t give up!

Encourage! Encourage to TRY or sample all the foods on the plate, but it is very important to not force the children to do so; they will only resist more which will most likely decrease their liking of that food. Encourage not force. 

Give Choices! Always have something on the plate that your child will eat, and have 1-2 new items on the plate in small portions. Even if they don’t eat the new food, they are staying familiar with the look, smell and texture of the food. Do not worry if the food ends of in the garbage. If you stop serving those new foods, the chances of them ever being eaten is pretty slim! 

Do Not Give In! If your child only wants to eat 2 or 3 foods, I highly suggest not giving in. Give one of these as a choice as listed above, but that is it. If you give in at every meal to the favorite foods, the child will learn that if he holds out long enough he’ll get those favorite items. 

Do Not Reward With Food! Take caution with offering food as a reward. When this occurs, the reward food becomes even more desirable to the child, resulting in the food you are trying to encourage becoming less desirable. This makes encouraging much more difficult!

Steps to Improve Eating Habits in Your Picky Eater:

Feeding involves all the senses, not just taste. Have your child watch you prepare meals and ask him to touch it. If he is not ready to do that, have him touch the food with his fork. Here is the complete set of steps: 

1. Touch the food with a fork

2. Touch/feel with hands

3. Smell it

4. Kiss it (bring to lips)

5. Lick it (touch with tongue)

6. Put food in mouth and take right out again

The goal is by the time you reach step 6, he will be very comfortable with the food and ready to take his first bite. Even if it’s just a small one.  Once the child take this first bite of a new food, try to keep the food in rotation often so it stays familiar.  Keep in mind this could takes weeks, or longer. 

If you are overwhelmed with your picky eater, and mealtimes are turning into madness, start at the beginning. Take your children with you to the grocery store or farmers market and get them involved. Although it might be faster to do the shopping alone, this will save you future headaches if they start eating better. Avoid the processed aisles as much as possible and spend some time exploring the produce section. Let them help you choose fruits and vegetables and get them to assist you in the kitchen at mealtimes. This will empower them even at a young age!

be well.

Jaime Windrow No Comments

A Simple Guide to Weekly Meal Planning

simple plan for weekly meal planning

How many of you have found yourself standing in front of the refrigerator at 6pm wondering what you are going to cook for dinner because you have never dabbled in the world of meal planning? And as you stare at those now limp, leafy greens, you can’t help but feel bad about the money that is about to be thrown in the garage. Do I hear take-out calling?

A big struggle for many families these days is getting a healthy home cooked dinner on the table each night, especially in a day and age where both parents are working. You are not alone!

One of the most common mistakes in food preparation and cooking is not having a plan. The enthusiasm, effort and intent might be there, but if you head to the grocery store without a “food map”, you can end up defeated at the cost of those hard earned bucks, never mind the food waste. How many times have you thrown out food because it went bad before you had a chance to cook it? Or you bought something just because it was on sale?

There are a number of ways to go about meal planning, and the best way is what works for you and your family. However, there is one key factor that I believe is critical to your success: writing it down. Just like goal setting, if you write it down, you will likely make the effort to achieve it. If you are not interested in picking up a pen and paper, do not fret – there’s an app for it!

Here are some of the best meal planning apps to take advantage of:

Paprika

Pepperplate

Big Oven

MealBoard

But if you are like me and prefer the old school style, try a dry erase board on the side of the refrigerator or a cork board in your office. It will stare you in the face everyday so it is a constant reminder. This method works for me because of my “starting point”.

Choosing a Starting Point

Starting points work great for weekly meal planning rather than monthly where you will likely find yourself making changes quite often. Appointments, late work meetings, martial arts practice, or an impromptu night out does happen! Here are a few simple starting points to choose from:

  1. Choose the main dish first, then add-in side dishes.
  2. If you belong to a CSA or Co-op, start with vegetables, then add-in main dishes.
  3. Pick themes such as Italian, Asian, American or take-out night. This can be especially fun if you have children at home.
  4. Choose foods based on weekly sales where you shop locally such as Food On The Table.

If you have never done any sort of meal planning before, I highly suggest trying my preferred starting point #2. I have belonged a few local CSA’s and given that I do not know what will be in my box of fruits and vegetables, it makes sense for me to build my meals around what vegetables I receive each week. If this is available to you, I highly suggest getting involved as it will save you money in the end and you’ll be getting fresher and more nutritious foods! Not to mention you will be “forced” trying new foods you might not otherwise try, which will increase variety in your diet. AND you are supporting your small, local farmers – so important! Check out Local Harvest to see what CSA’s are in your area.

Make a Plan

Using starting point #2 with a CSA, you will have new surprises each week, but there are usually a few reoccurring items as well, depending on the season. Here is an example of a box I previously received:

  • Swiss Chard (1 bunch)
  • Turnip Greens (2 bunches)
  • Eggplant (1 small)
  • Romaine Lettuce (1 bunch)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2)
  • Butternut Squash (1)
  • Yellow Squash (1)
  • Green Zucchini (1)
  • Mushrooms (12)
  • Sweet Onion (1 large)
  • Green Onions (4-5)
  • Celery (1 bunch)
  • Apples (2)

STEP 1: Choose what main vegetables to eat first: fastest to slowest spoilers.   According to that rule, here is how I laid out my week:

  • Monday: turnip greens
  • Tuesday: Swiss chard
  • Wednesday: yellow squash, green zucchini, mushrooms
  • Thursday: turnip greens
  • Friday: eggplant
  • Saturday: sweet potatoes
  • Sunday: butternut squash

STEP 2: Pick your proteins! I do not have any strict rules, but when planning for the week I go for variety and this is my usual template:

  • Fish/Seafood: 1-2x per week
  • Lean Red Meat: no more than 1x per week
  • Vegan/Vegetarian: at least 1x per week
  • Poultry: 2-3x per week

BASIC PLAN:

  • Monday: turnip greens, onion + CHICKEN
  • Tuesday: swiss chard, onion + FISH
  • Wednesday: yellow squash, green zucchini, mushrooms + VEGETARIAN
  • Thursday: kale, green onion + TURKEY
  • Friday: eggplant + CHICKEN
  • Saturday: sweet potatoes + LEAN MEAT
  • Sunday: butternut squash + FISH

STEP 3: Search for recipes! Now that you have your template, the rest is easy, and this is when a website or app can be very handy. (Check out the one above). Once you find a recipe – save it! I use Zip List and love it. Whichever you choose to use, stick to it so everything is organized in one place. It will be a big timesaver in the end.

Here is an example of what Tuesday’s dinner turned into:

Local mah-mahi grilled with a mango chili sauce, and served with Swiss chard (leaves and stems) sautéed with onion and fresh garlic!

STEP 4: Filling in the gaps. To ensure that I do not get to the end of the week with food uneaten or spoiled, I go through the rest of my share and see what I have left and where I can use it:

  • Romaine Lettuce (1 bunch)
  • Sweet Onion (1 large)
  • Green Onions (4-5)
  • Celery (1 bunch)
  • Apples (2)

In this case, the romaine lettuce will be used for salad at dinners when there are no greens (Friday – Sunday) and the onions will be good for the Swiss chard and turnip greens recipes. The apples and celery make easy snacks. (I wash and cut the celery stalks into 3 inch pieces to be eaten with peanut butter or hummus.) If the celery is not prepared in advanced, then it does not become a “quick” snack!

I personally do not plan menus for breakfast or lunch as I do dinner, but I am prepared for those meals. Many times my dinner recipes yield more than enough for leftovers, so that becomes lunch the next day. Breakfast is a variety but more than often I choose one of my quick healthy options.

STEP 5: Now it’s time to shop! So the dinner menu is done and now I can head to the grocery store or farmers market with my “food map” knowing exactly what I need.

Weekly Fresh Items To Stock

  • 1 dozen organic/free range eggs
  • Pint of egg whites
  • Greek yogurt
  • Organic cottage cheese
  • Fresh fruits
  • Dates
  • Fish, seafood, poultry
  • Anything needed for recipes I do not have

To keep my weekly shopping above to a minimum, I buy frozen and shelf stable items in bigger quantities. Below is a short list of items I like to keep on hand for times when I need to throw a quick meal together!

  • Almond, rice, hemp, coconut Milk
  • Frozen chopped vegetables for stir-fry or eggs
  • Frozen edamame
  • Nuts
  • Frozen fruit for smoothies
  • Canned tuna and canned salmon
  • Variety of beans
  • Turkey sausage and chicken breast (freeze them)
  • Low carb wraps (freeze them)
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice

be well.