Do You Have A Picky Eater?

June 2016

There’s one in every family – the child who goes through her casserole flicking bits she doesn’t like to the side, the one who won’t eat his dinner unless it’s all one color, the one who refuses fruits and vegetables absolutely.  This ‘picky stage’ is entirely normal and fortunately, most children do grow out of it, but it’s certainly a challenge while you’re in the middle of it.

How do you make sure your picky eater gets the nutrition she needs?

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Hiding Healthy into Favorite Foods

What kids don’t know can actually help them, nutritionally speaking. If they like pizza or spaghetti, it’s easy to blend extra veggies like carrots and even spinach into your sauce.

An immersion blender can be your best friend when it comes to making sauces, soups and stews more nutritious. The trick is to blend in foods that don’t dramatically change the color (or flavor) of the original food. Try pureeing cooked carrots, onions, a little bit of spinach and a can of whole tomatoes until smooth, then stir into any commercial pasta or pizza sauce. If you make your sauce from scratch, simply cook all the veggies until tender and puree using an immersion or regular blender. Then add your cooked meatballs into the silky smooth sauce!

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For a sweet treat with some nutrition, mix a dark chocolate cake mix with a can of pumpkin puree. Blend until smooth and bake at 350 until a tester comes out of the center clean. The batter will be much thicker than cake and will bake up like brownies.

Dark blueberries or blackberries make a great cover for greens in smoothies. Don’t go overboard with the greenery, and make sure there’s plenty of fruity goodness. Start with spinach, which is mildest in flavor, and work up from there.

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Introducing Kids to New Foods

Even if your child is eating some healthy foods, they may be reluctant to try foods they’re not familiar with.  You can help them expand their palates by relating new foods to foods they already love, by making them similar in appearance.  Mash cauliflower and add white cheddar to resemble mashed potatoes; turn sweet potatoes or butternut squash into French fries; or make noodles from zucchini or spaghetti squash (try mixing them half and half the first time).

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Turning new foods into dips can be a great way to get kids to try them.  Guacamole and hummus are yummy ways to introduce avocado and chickpeas; start with a favorite chip or cracker then use them as a healthy bridge to introduce raw veggies like bell pepper strips and broccoli.

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Zucchini, pumpkin and squash are great in baked goods. Zucchini bread or muffins spiked with a sharply sweet lemon glaze, pumpkin spice and other recipes can be a great introduction to these foods, something yummy that you can remind kids of later: “You liked squash in those delicious muffins we made, remember?” Sometimes that simple link can be enough to get a child to take a food risk.

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Not everything is going to work, but there are lots of delicious ways to get more vegetables and new foods into your child’s diet. When all else fails, take a deep breath and remember that “It’s just a phase.”