Toddlers and young children are really tricky to feed sometimes. They can be completely picky little critters when it comes to trying new foods and deciding which foods they like and do not like. And then they change their minds along the way too! The fruit bites that were delicious last week are completely inedible the next! That’s where I am with my kids, and I’ve come up with some simple ways to expand your child’s diet.
Our oldest child is 6, and he has autism. Which alone can lend itself to picky eating tendencies. Adding to that, Cooper has a severe gluten intolerance. His biopsy of his stomach was negative for Celiac Disease. However, his blood levels scream “He HAS Celiac Disease!” So, Cooper is gluten free. Add to that, he also has a relatively rare digestive disorder called CSID (Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency). It means he isn’t able to properly digest sugars or carbohydrates. That’s right. So, the carbohydrates he COULD have with the Celiac Disease, he can’t digest. Mercifully, there is a medicine that’s now available that helps a little bit! Any little bit helps.
I’m Practicing What I’m Preaching
I tell you all this, not to tell you that we’ve got it rough in the food department. But to show, the following tips I’m about to give you are what I use every day to try and expand my own child’s diet and make sure he’s getting all the proper nutrients he can get. I’m not telling you what you SHOULD be doing and then going rogue. I use these strategies every single day. I just hope some may be able to help you!
To start with, patience is key. Little kids are funny about trying new food. I have no idea why their immediate response seems to always be “NO, get that away from me are you trying to kill me??” But that seems to be our regular mode of operation for both our kids. So, the first thing you’ll need on this journey is patience. And a lot of it. Cause this little journey will take a while and will be ongoing!
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Set the Stage
Stack the deck as far in your favor as you can. Does your child have a favorite cartoon character? Book character? See if there are plates, cups, napkins, and utensils that go with this character. Maybe the food is a little more fun if it’s on a Mickey Mouse plate or eaten with a bulldozer fork. You never know what might spark a little more interest in food!
Fun Eating Helpful Items:
- Dinneractive Dining – Construction Themed Dinnerware
- Constructive Eating Garden Fairy Combo with Utensil Set
- Mickey Mouse 4-Piece Feeding Set
- Me Time Meal Set – T-Rex
Make it Fun
Make trying new foods a fun time for your kids. Don’t make it some big deal that everyone dreads. You’ve just reached the part of the day where we take a bite of a new food. Plain and simple.
It’s cool if you’re laughing and rolling your eyes at me and thinking I’m nuts right now. Sureeeeeeeee. It’s just that simple, Sarah. I’ll just put some new food in front of my kid and they will love it. Awesome. Here Little Johnny… just take a bite of the new food for the day! It’s not that easy most of the time, I get it. It’s certainly not that easy at our house. But you never know! Try it and see!
Be a good example
Be a good example and eat the foods yourself that you want your kids to try. Meaning, don’t be throwing down pizza and trying to feed your kids salad at the same time. Help your child see you make healthy choices and encourage them to do the same.
Also, tell them you’ll try new foods with them if you have never tried it. And even if it’s the worst thing of all time, don’t gag and make faces. Try it, chew it up and swallow it and remain neutral about it.
Expand Your Own Diet
Also remember to offer them foods you don’t like. I’m a crazy picky eater myself. I have a wide variety of food I do eat, but I’m not a big fan of salad dressings and dips and condiments. And I often overlook that might kids might like those condiments! So I have to actively remember to offer ketchup, mustard, ranch or whatever might go with our meal. You never know if adding a dip might make something a little easier to eat!
If your child has a texture issue with food, then abide by that always. If they don’t like mushy things, don’t try to serve them applesauce or mashed potatoes. If red foods bother them for whatever reason, don’t give them a plate of strawberries and cherries. Not every food and texture is for everyone. Just like you likely have a few foods you can’t stand, your child does too. Respect that and be reasonable.
Be prepared to offer a new food a lot of times. Generally, a typically developing child may need to be offered a new food 10-15 times before they will even try it. A child with special needs will probably need to be offered the food way more times than 15 before they even touch it. But, if you stick with it, usually they will eventually try the food. Just be consistent and keep at it.
Don’t Get Stressed
Getting stressed about your child’s diet and stressing out at mealtimes is not going to help anything. Don’t make it an overly big deal to try new foods. Try them and move on. Keep trying and it will either lead to new
Food chaining is an awesome way to get your kids to try new foods. It may sound complicated but it’s really not. All you do is use a food your child does like as a gateway to getting them to try new foods they haven’t tried yet.
It goes like this… your child likes French fries. Try the French fries dipped in ketchup. If your child likes the ketchup, then you can try all kinds of other foods dipped in ketchup, like hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc. If you can find a common condiment they like, you can get them to try new things that loop back to that condiment.
Do they like peanut butter and crackers? Would they like apple and peanut butter? Or banana and peanut butter? So you like a ham sandwich? Would you like to put some ham on your pizza? Do they like ranch dressing dip? Maybe you can dip a few carrots in ranch and get them going on a few veggies that way.
See how it can link together? You’ll try a ton of combinations but you will find some that work for you and your child.
Food Chaining Links:
- Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet
- Helping Your Child With Extreme Picky Eating
- Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent
Get creative in the kitchen. There are approximately one gazillion books and online recipes online for kids’ meals and food preparation. Start reading any one of them and try out some ideas.
Does your kid like French fries? What about if you made carrot fries or zucchini fries? What about chicken fries?
How about ice cream? Instead of ice cream could you make frozen banana ice cream? With other added fruit? (Because if you’ve not had it, it’s amazing! It comes out like soft serve ice cream!)
What kind of cookies do they like? Could you work a few dried fruits into those cookies?
If ever there was a time to live in where you can get convenient AND healthy foods… it’s now. There’s never been an easier time to be gluten free or any other kind of specialty diet.
There are frozen veggies as noodles. Or as tater tots! Broccoli tater tots! With cheese in them! What! Already made. You just have to put them in the oven.
There are tons of veggie and fruit chips at the ready in the chip aisle. Lots of stores have freeze dried fruit, which is a delicious alternative to the fresh variety and at least maintains SOME of the nutritional value without a ton of added sugars.
You can get organic chicken nuggets for crying out loud! It’s an amazing time to add some healthy options to your shopping list.
Let them Help
Letting your child help shop for the food and help prepare the food usually only increases their willingness to try the new foods. For example, you could say, we need to try a new fruit this week, let’s go pick one out at the store, and then let your child pick out what they want to try. They are WAY more likely to try that fruit simply because it was their ideas.
Or if you are preparing dinner, let them help. They will be proud of their hard work and probably far more likely to try a bite of their own creation that they helped cook!
You have to be a mind ninja to work with little kids on food!
Juicing and Smoothies
If you aren’t getting very far with eating fruits and veggies, you can always try juicing and making smoothies. Sometimes we have to use this tactic to get some of the proper nutrients in our diet at our house.
There are great recipes out there for all kinds of healthy smoothies and juices that are packed with vitamins and minerals for you and your kids.
Try a Baby Syringe
And, if they have a hard time drinking it, or just won’t try it, give a medicine syringe a try (like the kind that comes with baby Tylenol or Antibiotics at the pharmacy). I’ve given Cooper juice in the syringe before and then he’s decided it tastes pretty good after a few tries, and he’s ready to try some in a cup. And sometimes not. But either way, we got some vitamins in.
Helpful Juicing and Smoothie Items:
- Ninja BL480 Nutri Ninja (what we use!)
- Cuisinart CJE-1000 Die-Cast Juice Extractor
- Oster Blender
- Best 100 Smoothies for Kids
Vitamins and Minerals
If you don’t think your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals you can always have their blood checked. And ask your pediatrician about giving them a daily multi-vitamin to help make sure your bases are covered. Your doctor can recommend what kind and how much they think your child might need.
Conclusion: Simple Ways to Expand Your Child’s Diet
Getting your kids to try new foods can be a really draining and dreaded experience. But it doesn’t have to be. I hope this article has given you some awesome suggestions for how to try and sneak a few new foods into your child’s diet. Hopefully, you have a few new ideas and inspiration for trying new foods with your child this week too. Just remember to take it easy, take it slow, and to be patient with your child and yourself. You may even have some fun along the way thinking up new ideas for food for your child! Best of luck in the kitchen and just keep shuffling.
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