Are your picky kids your downfall?

By admin | September 7, 2011

(Tips to help navigate healthy meal times with your finicky offspring.)

You’re committed to your workout. You’ve meal planned and grocery shopped. You’re all set to step into a healthier lifestyle, but then you find yourself sitting down to yet another dinner of prepared chicken nuggets, boxed mac n cheese, and 10% fruit juice. What happened?

It’s possible, that your kids are sabotaging your desire for change. Who dictates the meals in your house: the health-centric adults who are making changes for the better, or the picky eater tyrants who insist they only like packaged foods?

Recently a new client asked me about her “picky eaters” and we shared a revelation. In the 1970s there were no picky eaters! There were happy kids who ate dessert, and sad kids who didn’t. There were kids outside playing after dinner, and there were kids still parked at the dinner table scowling at their uneaten Brussel sprouts. There were kids who went to be full, and kids who went to bed hungry. But growing up, I never heard of a picky eater.

Contrast that to the situation many of us face at the dinner table: a meal for the adults and a separate meal for the kids. That conundrum is summed up in an article by journalist Landon Hall “When did kids start to eat apart from adults?” who proposes that food manufacturers and marketers have programmed our children and taken over our dinner tables.

In light of a recent Wall Street Journal article by Shirley S. Wang, there may actually be obsessive-compulsive tendencies amongst the pickiest of the picky. But here are some tips from experts about how to navigate dinner time with the everyday variety picky eater who may be sabotaging your healthy meal plans.

Nicci Micco, Editor-at-Large at Eating Well Magazine, says the solution to getting your kids to eat anything is “Don’t give up!” As a mom and a nutrition expert she offers 5 Tips to get your kids to eat anything and I tend to agree with her advice.

A North Carolina family took on healthy eating as a 100 day challenge and posted their experiences at where you’ll even find a section devoted to the challenges of converting children to a “real food” diet, as well as suggestions for school lunches and other kid-centric tips.

Susan Stiffelman, a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist, says don’t turn your dinner table into a battle field. See her video advice on handling your picky eater without making every meal a cause to fight.

Start your little one’s on a healthy path early and stay the course. Carolyn Land Williams, M.ED., R.D. posted these healthy recipes for Toddlers 18-24 months on the Cooking Light website. Encourage your little one to explore new flavors while not overpowering their delicate sense of flavor and you’ll create a love of healthy foods early in life.

The best advice I’ve learned (and seen put into practice) is from film producer Laurie David who authored The Family Dinner and maintains the site The book and the website are fantastic tools to bring your family, peaceably to the dinner table, for healthy meals as a part of a family tradition. Chock-full chapters include: over 75 kid-approved, fantastic recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt; tips on teaching green values; conversation starters; games to play to help even the shyest family member become engaged; ways to express gratitude; the family dinner after divorce (hint: keep eating together) and much more. I love this book.

My family recently returned from a vacation where our goal was to eat only real food. Vacation is usually the time when fast food and sodas reign supreme, but this time we cooked real food, limited drinks to water, milk and 100% fruit juices and actually SAVED MONEY by doing so. The kids were no worse for the wear and I managed to spend a week at the beach without gaining any weight. Talk about a win-win!
When making good choices for your family you can still enjoy kid-friendly foods, though you may have to actually cook them instead of relying on the microwave. My rules to making good food choices are pretty simple: “If it didn’t fall off a tree or plant, or doesn’t have a face and a mama, don’t eat it. If it’s man made, or laboratory produced, don’t eat it. If you read the label and there are more than five ingredients, you need a dictionary to understand the ingredients, or the ingredients are acronyms (BHT) or have numbers (Red #40) don’t eat it.”

Bottom line, it’s a waste of your time, energy and resources to prepare separate meals for the kids. Be a role model in healthy eating. Be responsible in the choices you make for the entire family. Be patient and encouraging and positive when it comes to guiding your kids toward better choices. Be vigilant as the guardian of family time at the dinner table. In other words, Be The Parent.

Happy eating and remember: Eat real food!

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