When I look at my two kids, I am always amazed at how different they are. They are both kind-hearted, brave and headstrong – but when it comes to looks and habits, they could not be more different if they tried. This is even more evident when it comes to their eating habits, and I am convinced it all has to do with how I introduced them to solids as babies.
With Mikayla, my now 8-year old, I didn’t know better. Her introduction to solids was through the bland mass-produced food you find in glass jars on the supermarket shelves – filled with added salt, sugar and preservatives. I did not focus on giving her much of a variety – not that we had a big variety back then. For years we struggled with her picky eating, and she was always underweight. I was constantly worried that she would have some sort of deficiency as she refused to eat most foods. My 4-year old son, on the other hand, eats pretty much everything. His introduction to solids was a bit more educated. I made his baby food myself, made sure he was introduced to a wide variety of flavours and encouraged healthy snacks that still tasted delicious.
We finally broke through Mikayla’s picky eating habits after tons of research and re-weaning, but before we got there I heavily relied on “juicy bags” to see us through. Well, that is how my kids refer to them… You might know them as Rhodes Squish pouches. They gave me insight on how to get Mikayla to eat and try new foods by trying flavour combinations, and they gave me peace of mind that she was getting some fruit and veg in her system. Both my kids love their products and it is such a convenient way to offer them a healthy snack choice. They just launched some delicious new jellies and purees containing yogurt as well that we are loving.
Before I share my tips of what personally worked, and still works for us – I just want to tell all other mammas who are struggling with a picky eater not to worry. They won’t starve… they will be okay. They do eventually grow out of it, and if they don’t – you learn to work your mamma magic around it.
Here are five ways that helped me guide my kids past the picky eating stage and got them the nutrients they need…
1. Limit their sugar intake & keep easy healthy snacks around the house.
I have such a sweet tooth myself, and I don’t believe in depriving kids of sugar completely – but no child needs added sugar in their diet. Naturally sweet fruit and veggies come paired with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them a better choice for toddlers than a sugary snack or drink that is just empty calories.Toddlers are active little creatures, and to get them to sit still long enough to eat something is a challenge on its own. I found having healthy snacks available with limited sugar and that are free of preservatives and artificial flavouring is a great way to keep them interested in more nutritional choices throughout the day. Great options are rice cakes with carob or yogurt coating, Rhodes Squish fruit and veg puree pouches, nuts, fruit jellies mixed with some fresh fruit slices and crackers.
2. Incorporate Tasty Smoothies
Smoothies and smoothie bowls are probably the easiest way to sneak some goodness into those little bodies… but don’t try trick them. They should know what they are getting so that they can appreciate the taste of the ingredients, this will also open them up to exploring more varieties of food. A big problem for Mikayla is consistency – she cannot stomach anything with a funny texture so I always make sure the smoothies I make are smooth as can be. Paying attention to the texture of the foods your kids do not like can be very enlightening, and can help you on the road of finding more foods they will enjoy.
3. Make Food Fun!
I don’t know about you, but I am not a mom who has time to create an entire ocean scene on my kid’s plate or spend ages arranging their fruit and cheese sticks in shades of ombre. There are other ways if making food fun that involves much less time and Pinterest skills! One of our personal favorites is to make delicious ice lollies or popsicles – it is a win-win situation. My pregnancy cravings get sorted, it provides some relief from the hot summer days and there are no tears about not being allowed ice cream – because it is close enough! It is easy enough to make that the kids can mostly do it themselves, and it is fun to experiment with different flavors and colours. There are so many ways to make food fun, it can be as simple as poking your dry spaghetti through cut-up pieces of viennas before cooking or putting meat on a stick. Kids are amused by the darndest things.
4. Let Them Help In The Kitchen
This probably made the biggest difference. My kids are way more inclined to eat the food I put on their plate if they had a hand in preparing it. You would be surprised how much a toddler can do in the kitchen! It might be a little more time consuming and messy, but it is also a wonderful way to bond.
5. Stop Stressing & Don’t Force It
If you make a huge issue about your child’s picky food choices, it will just become more of an issue. You stressing out about food makes them stress out about food – no one wins in a situation like that. The more you try to force their meal on them or persuade them to eat something, the less inclined they will be to do so. So just relax, enjoy your meal and move on. Offer them choices instead of limiting and dictating them – they might surprise you.
As a former picky eater myself who now eats EVERYTHING, and the mom of a reformed picky eater, I know the struggle is real when it comes to picky eating, and that there is no “quick fix.” Just take it one day at a time, keep encouraging them, and avoid the power struggles!
Sponsored by Rhodes Squish
Rhodes Squish products are made from 100% fruit and vegetables, and are free from preservatives, colourants, flavouring and starch.
For more information visit: www.squish.co.za