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It can seem difficult to navigate mealtime, as food likes and dislikes appear to be forever changing. Sometimes you’re at a loss for words. Didn’t they like that yesterday? Or maybe your child is really struggling with adapting to new food textures. So, we’ve interviewed nutrition experts to gain insight on food parenting, from picky eating to introducing new tastes and textures. See what they have to say:
Knowing what to feed picky eaters can be tricky. Maybe you know they need more veggies, but they just refuse to try those broccoli stems you keep placing on their plate. We asked Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC, a NYC-based pediatric dietitian for tips on how to help little ones try new foods:
Silber: Some kids are born loving food and eating; others, not so much. If your child falls into the “not the so much category,” here are some small steps you can take to make a big impact on their willingness to eat more foods:
Sometimes it’s not the taste of foods, but the texture! Some kids are more sensitive to textures than others. Nicole Silber offers some tips and tricks to introducing new foods to those with heightened sensitivities to textures:
Silber: For a child who is sensitive to textures, the process of introducing new foods can be slower, but nonetheless achievable!
If your child’s eating becomes increasingly rigid, and you find he or she is unable to advance to new textures, I would recommend consulting your pediatrician, a Registered Dietitian who specializes in pediatrics, or a Feeding Therapist.
We come across a lot of parents who ask for guidance with picky eaters. Can you share your insights on this?
Silber: I see many families whose primary complaint is “picky eating.” However, once we meet, I find that their child is not actually all that picky! There is often an over-estimation of how much a child needs to eat to meet his nutritional needs paired with a misunderstanding of what normal child eating behaviors are that makes parents think their kids are more limited eaters than they actually are. Children, just like adults, are allowed to have preferences (i.e. dislikes), so it is about understanding what is normal and what is not. However, if it appears to be more than picky eating, parents can work with a specialist.
Sometimes it’s hard to identify whether a child is just a picky eater or an underlying issue exists. Megan McNamee, RD, and Judy Delaware, OTR/L, specialize in feeding therapy and work together at Feeding Littles to help families feel great about meal time. Megan McNamee discusses how moms can identify if their toddler who’s a picky eater needs a Feeding Therapist:
McNamee: Judy Delaware, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy, sees children for a variety of food-related issues. You may want to consider a feeding therapy evaluation if your young child exhibits the following behaviors:
If you worry about your child’s eating, consider checking out our Feeding Littles: Toddlers fully online course.
We talked about different textures and how some kids have trouble expanding their horizons. What are some ways you encourage preschool-age children to try new textures and tastes?
For parents who are convinced that the solutions to picky eating presented are worth trying but are unsure of how to incorporate the suggestions into their 24-7 lifestyle, we asked Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE, and Founder of SuperKids Nutrition, how to find balance when you often feel rushed.
Halas-Liang: Enjoy the process! Discover what healthy choices you get most excited about. Then make it fun for your family, not another chore. For example, my daughter loves developing recipes with me. But I try not to cook with her when I’m over-tired, stressed or in or a real time crunch. I schedule it and prepare a few ingredients ahead of time. I choose one dish or side rather than a whole meal and make it together; I try not to conquer the world in the kitchen. My kitchen is far from perfect, it looks lived in and I’m happiest that way! I also try to make sure she chooses a recipe with a couple ingredients she already loves! By pairing preferred ingredients with new or less preferred ingredients you have a much better chance of your children eating it! If you’re trying to get your kids to try new foods, behavioral trackers can help. For example, these Super Crew themed plant protein meal tracker or colorful food tracker can help your kids try more plant-based meals!