How many of us parents can say that our children are picky eaters. Some of us may even say that we have also picky spouses to tend with when trying to meal plan and prepare healthy meals. We sat down with kids nutritionist Aviva Allen who has some great tips to share about easy meal prep, making good food choices for your family as well as overcoming objections from the little ones.
1. Can every child be inspired to be a good eater?
I think that every child can be inspired to become a better eater. It is important to allow your child to explore new foods at their own pace. We can continue to expose them to foods that we eat and when they are ready, they will try them and eventually learn to like them too.
2. How do you convert a picky eater into a good or better eater?
The goal is not to convert them. Eating is a learned behavior and as parents, we are their best teachers and need to lead by example. That being said, if you are dealing with a picky eater, getting to the root of why your child eats the way that they do is key in terms of figuring out how best to help them. Sometimes it can be as simple as removing pressure when it comes to feeding, changing the mealtime structure/routine or making the food more visually appealing. Other times it involves addressing some oral-motor, sensory or nutritional concerns first before any other strategies will be effective.
3. Are all prepared foods or boxed foods bad?
Not necessarily. It is important to read ingredients and not just look at the nutritional panel and to limit processed foods which are often high in sodium and refined sugar. We definitely want to focus on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, but you can also find some nutritious foods that come in packages which can be helpful time-savers.
4. How do you help parents who are working late and/or have limited time to prepare healthy meals?
Try using a Crockpot or cooking in large batches to freeze some for a future meal. Plan meals in advance and do as much prep work as you can the night before. There are also lots of produce delivery and healthy meal prep services available that may be an option, depending on your budget.
5. When kids ask for a treat (hoping for cookies etc.) – what do you suggest as a healthy alternative?
Fresh fruit can be offered, but homemade cookies or muffins made with healthy ingredients can be a good option. Remember that you are in charge of when food is being served and what is on the menu. Just because the kids are asking for a “treat” doesn’t mean you need to oblige.
Aviva Allen is one of Toronto’s leading Kids’ Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters. After obtaining certification from The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, Aviva went on to graduate from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City; a health-supportive chef training program with an emphasis on cooking with whole, unprocessed foods. Aviva has also received specialty pediatric training that has allowed her to support parents of children who are extremely picky and/or resistant eaters. www.avivaallen.com