Young boy reaches up to grab a strawberry off of the counter

Picky Eater Hacks

Over the last week I have been surveying members of my free Facebook support community about barriers they perceive on their path to living healthier lives.  Based on this feedback from real families like yours, I am creating a curriculum to support you in exactly the way you are needing.

The first topic I am going to tackle, is dealing with Picky Eaters.  I have a lot of advice to share on the topic of getting your children to eat a variety of nutritious foods, and so I am giving it to you now, all in one convenient place, with videos and text for all the learning styles!

For those short on time (which is another barrier for healthy living, I have learned), I will give it to you simply first.

Ellyn Satter developed an approach to feeding that is being revered as “best practices” for meal times, and you can even see her approach being shared by Public Health, at places like Ontario Early Years Centres. 

Simply put, as the parent, YOU decide:

  • what your children eat 
  • when your children eat
  • where your children eat

Your children get to decide IF they eat.

The idea is that there is no spoon-feeding, coercion, threats or bribery around eating. There is also no engaging in power struggles or demands, and no making separate meals for everyone in the house.  And meals are eaten at the dinner table without screens.  Understanding of course that children can only stay sitting down for short periods of time, so we allow for them to get up and come back.  Realistic, age appropriate developmental expectations are key.  

I have seen many parents frustrated by their kids who ignore them or act oddly when they ask them questions about meals, like “what do you want for breakfast?” or, “do you want veggies on your pizza, or plain?”.  My advice is, stop asking them.  Just take Alpha role, decide and serve it to them.

When the kids ask for a snack, you calmly tell them when the next meal will be served. When you serve meals, a great idea is to always serve at least one thing you know they love, in bowls so that they can serve themselves. And remember to zip your mouth about their choices. This is their chance to develop awareness and to experience autonomy while at the same time, being able to rely on you as the person steering the ship with confidence.

It might sound harsh, but when your children are chronically sick and explosively misbehaving as a result of bacterial overgrowth in their gut, or nutrient deficiencies, it is no joke. We need to ensure our kids are healthy; it is one of our most important jobs as a parent.  Yet, stressed parents often get aggressive instead of assertive, and this is the shift Ellyn Satter is trying to help parents make.

Time to keep it real– 

My kids have TV trays and totally love nothing more than watching their favourite show with dinner.  I can also take them out to a restaurant and they behave wonderfully (it wasn’t always that way, but we are here now, and you will get there too!). 

My kids also have their own Snack Drawer (not an Ellyn Satter approved practice). It is in a place they can reach and includes packs of seaweed snacks, Lara bars and Made Good granola snacks. They can also help themselves any time they want to a fruit or vegetable. They can get their own glass of water anytime, but they do need to ask if they want juice.

I give bedtime snacks too.  We are a snacking family, what can I say?

My kids are not picky eaters, but they were.  It can happen to any of us; that slippery slope has a way of creeping up when we aren’t looking.  I shared how I made the transition to a healthier diet on a video I co-hosted with the lovely Hayden Sears last year.  You can view the one hour class for free, simply by joining our free health support group on Facebook.

None of us are graduates from the pursuit of health, we are all at different phases and need to honour where we are at, what we are willing to do, and how far we can go at this moment in time. 

My goal is to make the transitions a little smoother, the path at least a bit clearer, and ensure you get a virtual hug when you need one.  And we all need one now and then.

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