Tips for Picky Eaters You Might Not Have Tried

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Hi, I'm Tina!

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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I’ve partnered with Wonderful Halos to bring you this blog post. Right now, the brand is hosting a “Good Choice Challenge” to encourage consumers to make good snacking choices by choosing Wonderful Halos over other traditional unhealthy snacks in order to lead a healthier lifestyle. With the holidays here, Wonderful Halos definitely make a delicious (and easy) option! As always, thank you for your support! 

We have quite the picky eater on our hands with Quinn. Sure, it’s his age (he’s 3.5 years old), but it has been a serious struggle for our family. As a baby, Quinn used to eat just about everything that we put in front of him. But, just after his first birthday, things went down hill. Meal time is almost always a challenge, and I can’t remember the last time he ate a vegetable (unless it was stealthily added into a smoothie).

As you might remember, Quinn participated in Massachusetts Early Intervention Program starting at 22 months for a full year. During this time, he made GREAT strides with his language and communication skills, but meal time was always still a problem. We met with a Registered Dietitian on a few occasions. She gave us some eating strategies, but they only kind of helped at the time. We attempted to implement them for many months with only minimal success, so, more recently, we’ve started to do our own thing and identify what works for Quinn. He’s still a picky eater, but we’re finally making some progress. Of course, some days are better than others, but I wanted to pass along some of the things that are working for us right now. When you have a picky eater, I feel like you’re open to just about anything to get your little one to eat, so I hope these help!

No toys at meal time – Here’s a perfect example of adjusting to Quinn’s needs. When he was two, I wrote a blog post about how we encourage toddler conversation. In it, I said that making meal time fun was a good way to get Qman to talk, which, at the time, was our goal. Fast-forward a few months, we realized the toys at the table were distracting him from actually eating, so now mealtime is a “no toy zone,” so Quinn can really focus on the task at hand.

Playing with his food – Ok, so there’s no toys at meal time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! We often encourage Quinn to play with his food, especially new ones, so he gets familiar with them. The more often he’s exposed to new foods, the more likely he’s to try them. We like to make our food talk and drive or fly it into ours or his mouth, which definitely gets him to eat more at meal time. Wonderful Halos can also be a fun and colorful addition for any part of the day – as a snack, in recipes, and you can even incorporate them in (holiday) crafts with your kids. Related: I really want to buy this construction utensil set for Quinn since food play is working so well for us. Looks fun, right!?

Serving 1-2 foods at a time – This strategy is one from the Registered Dietitian that we met with. She actually suggested serving Quinn no more than 3-4 foods at time, but we’ve since reduced that number to 1-2. I think maybe having too many options overwhelms him, so he does much better with eating when he only has just a couple of food choices (or no choice). If he finishes all of the food on his plate, we’ll give him something else to eat.

Limit milk – Quinn lovvveesss milk. In fact, he used to go days (not exaggerating) with only drinking milk and eating no solid food, so we’ve stopped giving him so much, especially in between meals. Nowadays, he only has milk in the morning and at night with dinner, and we’ll often start him with a small portion to encourage him to eat real food before filling up on milk.

Cooking together – Cooking with Quinn has been huge for getting him to try new foods. He helps me almost every night in the kitchen when I make dinner. I find little tasks for him to do, and he really seems to enjoy it. He doesn’t always eat what we make together (he’s only eaten meat once in his whole life), but sometimes he will and that’s a win for us! Just recently, Quinn tried mashed potatoes and took two bites without spitting them out! 🙂

No snacks after dinner – We really try to stick to this rule. Quinn will often take a few bites of dinner, say he’s “full,” but then ask for a snack 20 minutes later. We caught on to his little game, so now we encourage him to eat while reminding him that there’s no snacks after dinner. It usually gets him to eat a bit more at the dinner table.

Pack only healthy snacks for on-the-go – When we’re out and about running errands, I only pack healthy snacks to bring with us because I know if Quinn is hungry enough, he’ll eat them. Plus, having snacks on-hand prevents us from buying less-than-stellar options. We especially love Wonderful Halos mandarins because they’re sweet, seedless and easy to peel – Mother Nature’s perfect snack. They are 100% California-grown, non-GMO Project Verified, and tree-to-table, which makes them the perfect portable, convenient, and healthy snack for kids and adults on-the-go. (Yes, I sometimes travel with Halos in my purse! Haha!)

Eat treats together – Our family loves “fun” foods just as much as we love the healthy stuff, so we often share our treats among the three of us. That way, Quinn realizes that donuts or Cheetos are foods for special occasions and not a regular part of our diet.

Pick your battles – One of the things that the Registered Dietitian recommended is not making a big deal about food. Even though Quinn’s pickiness is frustrating at times, we do our best to keep a relaxed stance about it. If anything, we focus on the foods that will make him “strong” and encourage those as much as possible. Quinn loves fruit, especially Wonderful Halos, so we’re more than happy to serve it to him as a healthy option in his diet.

Question of the Day

Parents of picky eaters: Any tips or tricks to share that have worked for you? 


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