Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN
Dominica is a Registered Dietitian currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.
The age-old question of “what’s for dinner tonight?” can be exhausting for many parents, and even worse for those with picky eaters. Ensuring choosy children still get their nutritional bases covered, as well as creating a positive relationship with food, is top of mind for many parents. Here are a few strategies that can help.
1) Plan family mealtimes at the dinner table.
For some families juggling busy schedules, breakfast might be easier than dinner for everyone getting together, and that’s ok. Eating meals together regularly (as often as possible + away from a tablet or a television), can help children become more engaged with their meal. Use this opportunity to talk about all aspects of the food such as smell, color, and texture. Family meals are also more likely to be nutritionally balanced and have more variety. As a bonus, have children help prepare any part of the meal.
2) You are your child’s biggest role model.
Often, parents want their child to eat foods that they never eat themselves. Your child will be more willing to try new foods if they see everyone eating the same thing — siblings can be very influential in this as well. This observance starts very early on in childhood and is yet another reason behind the importance of family meals and having everyone try new foods.
3) Offer 2 successful foods + 1 new or disliked food at a meal.
Children are more willing to try a new food when they have the comfort of a well-liked food or two on the same plate. Also allowing the child to choose what that new food is will give them some control in the meal. For example, offer their favorite nuggets and macaroni and cheese with a side of either broccoli or peas. Dipping the new food in a favorite condiment can also help. It’s ok for them to spit it out so they feel they are in a safe-tasting environment. It may take up to 15 times for a child to try a new food and like it, don’t force them, but also don’t give up!
4) Consider supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin.
The process of getting kids to try new foods and expand their diet variety can take months, sometimes even years — it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint! Fruits and vegetables are a huge source of vitamins and minerals and unfortunately are the most common foods absent in a picky eater’s diet. Childhood is also a time of rapid growth and development, making the need for a multivitamin more important than ever. In addition to implementing the above strategies, the Renzo’s Picky Eater Multivitamin is specially formulated to cover any nutritional gaps as well as your peace of mind.
If you are concerned your child is more than just a picky eater, contact your child’s Pediatrician to discuss Pediatric Feeding Disorder. Conservative evaluations estimate that it affects 1 in 37 children under the age of 5.
Try playing this game with your picky eater:
Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write “parents” and other the other side write “kids”. Parents get to draw a star on their side when they serve and eat the desired new (or not yet accepted food). Kids get to draw a star on their side when they take a taste of the new food — remember it’s ok for them to spit it out. Over the course of a week, see who can collect the most stars!
Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.