If you are a mom, it's pretty much inevitable that you will be "blessed" with at least one picky eater in the house! One of the biggest questions I hear from new moms in my Baby Sign Language classes once their baby starts eating solid food is, "How do I know if my baby is getting enough nutrition?"
Sometimes babies start out eating like champs and then all of a sudden they become toddlers and start playing the famous "food rejection game." It's a game that all toddlers like to play which unfortunately results in A LOT of extra floor cleanings for mom, or a big plus for the family dog.
Toddlers seem to become picky eaters overnight leaving their parents with a lot of frustration and questions, like "Is my child eating enough?" or "What can I give them that they will ACTUALLY EAT?!"
Here are 5 mom hacks for picky eaters that will help make mealtime a little less stressful, and your children's bellies full with healthy, nutritious food!
1. Introduce smoothies into your child's diet.
A great tasting smoothie can provide picky eaters with so much nutrition without the stress that comes along with mealtime! Have you found yourself literally arguing with a toddler trying to instill some sort of logic into them? "This spinach is good for you! These veggies will help you grow up to be big and strong! It tastes so yummy! Look mommy eats it too!" You'll quickly realize that logic and toddlers just don't belong in the same sentence.
During the picky eater stage, give yourself a little break! Try giving them a smoothie packed with protein, veggies and a little fruit (to naturally sweeten it up and make it more enticing for them). Smoothies are a big hit in our house! There are a variety of ingredients you can add to a smoothie in order to feel confident that your picky eater is getting their daily dose of calcium, protein and vitamins without any added sugars.
It's important to remember that veggies are a must! I've seen a TON of smoothie recipes that are really lacking in the veggie department. Adding some veggies with high calcium content like collard greens, spinach, kale, broccoli and beet greens will ensure that your picky eater gets their much needed nutrition. One of the biggest misconceptions is that toddlers have to drink cow's milk in order to get their required daily calcium when in fact, calcium can be found in many foods!
Here are some of the ingredient's I've been adding to our smoothies lately that I haven't already mentioned:
- CAULIFLOWER - It's very mild and will take on the flavor of whatever else is mixed with it. Costco™ and Trader Joe's sometimes sell cauliflower already riced up for you! If you can snag a few bags of cauliflower rice when you see it, that will save you some time! We're always looking for more time as moms aren't we?! Keep the cauliflower rice in the freezer for easy smoothie making.
- KOMBUCHA - I add just a tiny splash to our smoothies when I have some in the fridge. The probiotics in this drink are wonderful for boosting immunity and maintaining gut health. Don't overdo it at first, especially if your toddler hasn't had any before. Some people report that their stomach gets upset when they drink too much kombucha at one time. My toddler now goes crazy over this stuff and will drink it straight out of the bottle!
I started brewing my own as well, which is much more affordable and tastes way better than store bought! At first, I was overwhelmed by the though of brewing my own but I've realized that it's not as hard as it seems! Amazon sells a Kombucha Starter Kit with step by step instructions - or - if you happen to have a friend already brewing some, you can ask them for some starter tea and a scoby.
If you're not into Kombucha, a splash of Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) will give you some probiotics as well. The flavor of the ACV is much stronger than Kombucha so you may need to add a little more fruit to disguise it. ;-)
- BEE POLLEN - Bee Pollen is the pollen gathered by honey bees, which is abundant in vitamins A, D, E, K and C. Research shows it to be anti-inflammatory and antibacterial among many other health benefits. In conducting my research I've come across some wonderful testimonials by families who started incorporating bee pollen into their diet!
As always, I encourage you to do your own research before trying something new.
- PROTEIN OPTIONS - Hemp Seeds and Pumpkin Seeds are our favorites because they are very high in protein and keep the kiddos full for longer periods of time. We also like to rotate in some Organic Raw Almonds (which are great for making your own almond milk), Almond Butter, Chia Seeds and Flax Seeds.
Tip: Soaking your nuts overnight in some filtered water makes them more digestible. Just be sure to rinse them off after soaking.
2. Offer vegetables BEFORE the main meal when toddlers are hungry.
If I give my toddler a plate of berries, chicken and broccoli at the same time, you can pretty much bet that the broccoli will be thrown overboard. Move everything else out of sight and offer the veggies first! If you present the veggies at a time when your toddler is actually hungry, you might see a difference.
I'll never forget this funny baby sign language moment...
My oldest daughter, who was eleven months old at the time, was eating lunch. I had her dessert on a small side table which I thought was out of eyesight. She took a few measly bites of her food, pointed at her dessert, signed "ALL DONE", then pointed at the fruit across the room on a side table and signed, "EAT". She was telling me, "I don't want this food. I want dessert!" without speaking audibly. If a baby that age who wasn't speaking many words yet could tell me to serve her dessert first, an older toddler with a verbal vocabulary will surely tell you their food preferences.
3. Blend veggies into their scrambled eggs.
How often do you see tiny fingers picking out green veggie pieces from their eggs? Throw a handful of greens and one egg into a blender (like the Nutribullet) and in a snap the eggs will turn beautifully green. Serve it with some ham too while you're at it! ;-) You can also try the same method by blending up some cooked peppers leftover from taco night.
4. Disguise Veggies into your meals
Incorporate some extra veggies into meals you are already prepping.
We love using this Food Processor to do this because it quickly chops whatever veggie you have on hand and is a HUGE TIME SAVER. I've had this Cuisinart Food Processor for years and use it daily. It comes with a few different blades too which great for quickly shredding and slicing veggies in a pinch.
- Blend a handful of spinach with a few eggs and use it to bread chicken.
- Add some shredded zucchini to your meatloaf.
- Add some kale to your ground beef when making tacos.
- Make muffins disguised with zucchini, spinach, carrots or sweet potatoes.
- Scramble some eggs and mix them with finely chopped veggies of your choice. Add some bacon crumbles and diced potato to the egg mixture. Grease a muffin tin or use these convenient silicone liners for easy clean up. Bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes or until the egg has set. Lastly, freeze these healthy, protein packed muffins perfect for quick, healthy breakfast on the go!
Follow the Whole 9 Family Picky Eater Pinterest Board. I've pinned a variety of yummy recipes that perfectly disguise veggies into meals.
** REALLY IMPORTANT **
I recommend disguising the veggies and ALSO offering a few pieces of the actual veggie alongside your toddler's meal.
Your end goal should be to have an ACTUAL VEGGIE EATER. You do not want to disguise your veggies so often that your toddler doesn't know what a real veggie looks like! Toddlers will go through phases and start eating something randomly after rejecting it for months, so keep offering whole pieces because you never know when they'll start to enjoy them. They'll find other ways of making mom's hair turn gray.
5. Spray your veggies with Magic
Yup, you read that correctly - I haven't gone crazy (yet)! ;-)
Toddlers love to have fun! Can you really blame them for that?! So, making mealtime a little more exciting could quite possibly make a huge difference in that picky eater toddler mind-game they play.
Recently, I started adding Coconut Aminos to a glass spray bottle like this one. Coconut Aminos are a healthier alternative to soy sauce without the added sugar and high sodium content.
I was first introduced to this amazing sauce when I completed my first Whole30. By adding it to a spray bottle and spraying one tiny drop on each plated veggie, my picky eater eats her veggies like a champ and as a result there are less veggies walking the plank.
We've also added an Elsa sticker to our spray bottles and call it "Elsa's Magic Spray" because that's what my picky eater is into at the moment. Who says you can't have a sprinkle of that "Disney Magic" at home?...You're Welcome! 🎶
Guess what?! This trick works on my 5 and 10 year old too! Triple win!
I hope some of these mom hacks for picky eaters were helpful to you!
Do you have any picky eater tips? Please share in the comments!