expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

Expert Advice: What Are Some Tips for Dealing with a Picky Eater?

This is a guest post by dietician Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD. She is the founder of Bumpin Blends, a company that makes and delivers dietitian-designed smoothie cubes to support the many symptoms of new motherhood.

A Mamas Uncut Facebook fan writes in asking for advice on the topic of her almost-two-year-old son, who has rather suddenly become a picky eater. She says that he used to eat almost anything, but recently will only eat meat or grilled cheese sandwiches. He spits out vegetables and other types of foods, and this mom is at a loss, having never experienced anything like this with her other, older children. Read this mom’s question, and advice from Lisa Mastela, below.

expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

“Until a few weeks ago, there was almost nothing my kiddo wouldn’t eat. Now he won’t eat anything except meat,” this mom says of her almost-two-year-old becoming a picky eater.

A member of the Mamas Uncut Facebook community asks:

“My 2-year-old has started becoming a picky eater: Advice? I’m not a new mother; I have three kids. My youngest being almost 2 is currently my focus for concern. Up until about a few weeks ago, there was almost nothing my kiddo wouldn’t eat. Now he won’t eat anything except meat.

I’ve tried sneaking veggies in his food, he just spits out his food and separates the veggies or sides out. The only other exception is grilled cheese sandwiches he will eat. I’ve never encountered this with any of my kids. Anyone have any suggestions I can try aside from the judgmental “eat what you’re given or don’t eat.” I’m not on board with that mantra thanks.”

Mamas Uncut Community Member

expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

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Advice from Expert Lisa Mastela

Great question! I’m Lisa Mastela, a registered dietitian and mom myself. Picky eating is SO common, and it’s not a major cause for concern. Many kids will eat anything in infancy, and then suddenly they realize that they can say no… that’s when the fun starts.

There are certainly ways to help improve their eating habits without making it a struggle or an ultimatum for them. My first tip: try to avoid “hiding” veggies. I’m all for making sure meals are nutrient-packed, but it’s also important for your child to understand that they like veggies rather than not knowing they’re having them.

expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

A few tips to improve picky eating in a gentle way:

1. Let them help cook! Getting your little one involved in grocery shopping, letting them pick out a new, unfamiliar food, and then letting them help with the recipe and cooking process in a safe way helps them take ownership and pride in the food. They’ll be more inclined to try out their own creation.

2. Model behaviors yourself. Often parents will make a special “toddler” meal of basic foods and steamed veggies while eating something different themselves. This not only shows your toddler they get a special, different meal (or maybe that mommy and daddy don’t eat vegetables…), but it often doesn’t taste very good for them! I mean, do you love plain steamed veggies? Probably not as much as yummy roasted ones with olive oil… Try making one meal for the whole family and let your child watch you eat vegetables. Maybe even try “cheers”-ing your veggie bites – toddlers love being involved and they love saying “cheers!”

expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

3. Offer them new/explorative foods in small portions with foods you know they love. Let’s say your child loves strawberries, is okay with chicken, and hates broccoli. Try making a plate with a big handful of strawberries, a few pieces of chicken, and 1-2 small pieces of the roasted broccoli you’re eating. This makes the broccoli less intimidating, and they might consider touching it when they run out of strawberries and chicken. If they don’t touch it, that’s okay! Try again next time.

4. Take off the pressure. Often when toddlers know we’re pressuring them to do something, they refuse just because they can. Taking the pressure off and just letting them eat can take away the allure of refusing the food for many littles. So, try to avoid the “if you eat _____ you can get _____!” or “eat your ______!” or “just one bite of ____!” Giving them some space to just eat might be just what they need to explore foods on their own. 

expert advice: what are some tips for dealing with a picky eater?

About Lisa Mastela

Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian with a master’s in nutrition and public health. She did research at the University of Washington on special needs children, picky eating, diabetes, and nutrition in premature infancy, along with research on intermittent fasting at the University of Southern California. She then worked in personalized nutrition, utilizing DNA, cortisol, and the microbiome to personalize individuals’ wellness goals and nutrition.

After getting pregnant herself, she realized how difficult nutrition for expecting and new mothers is, so she founded Bumpin Blends, a company that makes and delivers dietitian-designed smoothie cubes to support the many symptoms of new motherhood. All a mom has to do is pour the Bumpin Blends cubes into her blender, add liquid, and blend, for a nutritious snack to help everything from fatigue and anxiety to leg cramps and swelling, and everything in between. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and busy toddler, Caroline. 

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