Battle Hymn of the Picky Eater

How many of you have been there? You prepare this nice meal, absolutely positive it is kid friendly, only to have it immediately rejected by your toddler within seconds of putting it on their plate. This has been my kids’ MO since they both were around 12 months old.
Initially, my son AJ’s stand was against any food that was once living and walked, swam or flew around the earth. I know this is not an issue for all, but he was on the smaller side and I was still concerned with his protein intake as well as other vitamin and minerals. That boy could have consisted on yogurt, bread and fruit alone. The Babe on the other hand, she definitely has a more diverse palate. She is intrigued by a wide variety of flavors and foods. You can generally count on her to at least take that first bite to try the new food. But that is where it ends, food seems to be for tasting purposes only. (Really, I should be thankful for this, tasting is half the battle). In the Babe’s case, I suspect teething is the culprit for her lack of appetite. Her pickiness is definitely heightened when there are ANY teeth breaking through. There are no favorites, no go-to foods that she will always eat. Dining is totally at her whim and often times she just has zero interest. My two children, textbook examples of the common eating behavior termed “food jags”. AJ demonstrates the classic desire to eat the same foods time and time again, while the Babe often refuses to eat at all, shoving aside foods that she has devoured in the past.
So there it is. Picky eating has been, by far, my one of my greatest challenges as a parent. Mostly because it drives me INSANE. There is all that wasted time, effort and food, but I continue to work at it. I am proud to report that after many years of relentlessly exposing AJ to new things and repeatedly trying them, at five years of age he now eats and enjoys foods from ALL the food groups. He still has picky tendencies but both he and the Babe’s diet and palate are continuing to expand.

Here are some tips for dealing with the picky eater in your life:
1. Stay calm.
2. Make sure they are hungry at mealtimes. (No snacking or giving filling beverages at
least 60-90 minutes before a meal).
3. Offer the new foods or foods you most want them to eat first.
4. Have minimal distractions.
5. Make it appealing (for a kid). Use fun shapes, colors, plates or silverware.
6. Eat together as a family, be a good role model.
7. Offer a variety of foods.
8. Don’t be a short-order cook. (This is especially true for older kids. With your
food-refusing toddler, I personally believe there is some grey area on this one).
9. Let them make decisions when possible. i.e. milk or water, peas or carrots, the Elmo or
Mickey Mouse plate
10. Try, try again. On average it takes 8-10 times for a child to grow accustomed to a
new food. It is not unheard of for it to take 20 plus time for this to occur. (See tip
number one).


We are very happy to report that the babe (my 19th month old) had successful 18/19 month check up. And when I say successful, yes I do mean that she is healthy, but she also gained three pounds in four months. Now, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average weight gain for toddlers between one to two years is about three to five pounds. Score one for the Babe and score two for the Mama! This took months of patience getting a strong-willed toddler to eat (did I mention, she wouldn’t even stop to do that if she wasn’t strapped down in a high chair?) foods that are both high-caloric and healthful at the same time. There was no way I was going to cave and feed her “junk” all day. The AI (Adequate Intake) for daily calorie consumption is 992 kcal* (calories) for girls ages 1-3 or 15kcal per centimeter.** In the Babe’s case that equates to 1200 kcal/day. That is quite a bit of food for such a small being. Here are some of the foods we added or substituted for my daughter’s enjoyment.
Enfamil (Stage 3) formula, added to whole milk
Whole milk yogurt made with cream
Almond butter
Whole milk cheddar and colby cheese
Like I said, these are just a few of the foods we used, and most likely that made the biggest impact on her daily diet. There were numerous other tactics we employed while cooking or preparing her meals/snacks to get results. Now the plan is to continue until she is older and demonstrates adequate gain for a longer amount of time. Here’s to continued success!

*The Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes
** Mitchell, M.K., Nutrition Across the Lifespan, 2003 (I know it is dated, but I liked the information provided on this subject.)