Most families have one, the kid who is fun, precocious, and simply refuses to eat what is put in front of them. Unfortunately, what they most avoid are often the nutritious fruits, veggies, and proteins that will help them grow up big and strong. Some of the nutrients that children most miss if they do not have a large palette include calcium, magnesium, fiber, iron, and healthy fats. Forcing children to clean their plate can lead to a toxic relationship, but always caving and preparing an alternative meal can create stubbornness and prevent them from getting key nutrients. Getting creative in the way new foods are introduced or finding new ways to present foods the kids may have previously rejected is important to maintaining a healthy parent or guardian and child relationship and ensuring that each child has healthy habits and proper nutrition for the rest of their life.

Here are 3 ways to ensure picky eaters get the nutrition:

-Grilling fruit: Hear us out before you judge us! Grilled fruit is something that is seen in cultures that have lots of tropical fruits. It can change the texture of a fruit, add a new flavor, and supplement other foods they may not enjoy. Paired with chicken tenders, or cut up in salad, grilling certain fruits can change the fruit just enough to make it more enjoyable for a picky eater. Try grilling pineapple with chicken tenders. 

-Have lots of options for days when they just don’t want what was cooked: Desserts are usually something that even the pickiest eater will choose, and some days, a healthier dessert option may be better than nothing. However, if they can be encouraged to eat mac-n-cheese, a piece of whole wheat toast, or carrots with ranch, then they may be more inclined to see meals as a time to fuel their bodies with healthy nutrition. We all love treats, and it would be so much fun if we could eat them all day long, but that isn’t healthy for any of us! Sugar does have addictive properties and indulging in it every day can lead anyone to be too dependent on it. Sometimes desserts are the only option, but having other things they will eat on hand, and encouraging them to eat those, will provide more balance and variety and develop healthier long-term habits. 

-Hide veggies in chocolate cake: That’s right, not all desserts need to be sugary and without any nutritional value. Because chocolate is dark, many shredded vegetables can be hidden in it. There are tons of recipes on the internet that use sugar replacements like xylitol and chocolate in partnership with veggies like zucchini, squash, pumpkin, carrots, parsnips, beets, and more! While these are not necessarily a full meal replacement, it is a sneaky way to get children to eat a serving of something healthy without them realizing it. 

Every kid is different, and there are lots of reasons why kids will reject food. Some have negative associations with food because they got sick. Others have problems with texture or flavor. Some just think if they won’t eat what is served, they can get something tastier. Finding ways to help kids get nutrition, and then slowly working them to eating most things on their plate is a custom job for each parent and child, but these three ideas are just a way to get thinking about it creatively. 

By: Bethany Verrett