Feeding Picky Eaters – Try a Child’s Tasting Menu to Awaken Your Kid’s Taste Buds and Encourage Healthy Eating

Summary: Cut out the sweetened drinks and turn your kids on to a healthy “small plate with a bunch of little things on it”.

Guacamole and chips, sliced tofu dog, green beans and a yogurt desert with a border of sliced fuji apple with a mixed berry sauce drizzle topped with fresh blueberries.

Guacamole and chips, sliced tofu dog, green beans and a yogurt desert with a border of sliced fuji apple with a mixed berry sauce drizzle topped with fresh blueberries.

Most of us struggle with trying to get our kids to eat a well balanced, healthy diet. Unfortunately, we are genetically programmed to seek out salt and sugar.  In nature both of these items are very rare. Salt is a necessary component for proper electrolyte balance, and anything sweet is generally a simple carbohydrate that  provides instant energy.

The problem is that in an industrialized society, with a centralized food system that is heavily subsidized by the government to favor cheap calories, we now have extremely easy and affordable access to things that were once rare.

Normal everyday items such as spaghetti sauce and bread, that your grandmother would never even think of putting sugar in, are now laced with high fructose corn syrup. Normal foods are now sweet, and sweet foods are now super sweet. If you’re eating processed foods you can pretty much put them into one of two categories; sweet things and salty things.

You are  responsible for training your child’s palette. Whatever flavors you feed them will become hardwired in their brain. Will they have opportunities to change later? Yes. Will it be easy? No. Feed your kids lots of sweet and salty foods and their taste buds will be forever skewed in that direction. Once this happens, normal, healthy, unprocessed foods will simply taste bland and “funny” in comparison. In a Battle Royale for your child’s taste buds, oatmeal, bananas and milk simply can’t compete with Froot Loops, chewy processed fruit bars and Capri Sun.

If you feed your kids junk, they will become picky eaters and will have a difficult time getting the nutrients they need for optimal health. So don’t feed your kids junk.

Fussy children with tiny appetites should not be given any treats. I know that sounds harsh but if your child consumes very little food, every bite counts. There is simply no room for accommodating nutrient free sweets. Have you ever had a friend who had gastric bypass surgery to loose weight? Notice how carefully they must choose their food because they can eat so little now. It’s all about maximizing nutrition. This is what feeding a tiny, fussy eater is like.

The very best thing you can do to help your kids grown up healthy is to not give them sweetened liquids. Kids should only be drinking water and milk. That’s it. Don’t kid yourself, fruit juice is sugar water. Pure empty calories. It messes with your insulin levels, rots your teeth, and provides effortless calories void of fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants. So don’t give it to them.

So what should you choose? Well, a good general rule is to eat as close to the source as possible. Every step a food is removed from its natural state, another pat of its nutritional profile is removed. And I’m not just talking about vitamins. I’m talking about the hundreds of known and yet to be discovered phytonutients and micronutrients that are absolutely essential to life. You can’t get the nutrients from blueberries by taking an antioxidant pill. Nor can you get it from the pasteurized and filtered juice. You must eat the blueberry itself. And guess what, it’s more fun and tastes way better to actually eat blueberries than blueberry derivatives! It’s a win, win situation.

Now, a saving grace for parents is that children are also drawn to novelty. If it’s new, different, quirky, or colorful they got to have it.

It was clear early on that no matter how healthy and delicious the food we were giving our daughter was, she would still get bored of it eventually. I don’t blame her, I would too. It’s one of the main reasons we love to go out to eat. Not only do we not have to prepare the food or clean up after ourselves, but we get to try something completely different.

To mix things up and keep mealtime interesting for my daughter I started preparing what would eventually become known as “a small plate with a bunch of little things on it”. The concept is simple. Kid’s love novelty, their stomachs are small, and they get bored easily. So give them a wide variety of tasty and attractive morsels of healthy food.

Basically, a tasting menu for a child.

It’s really easy to put together “a small plate with a bunch of little things on it”. Just improvise with whatever is available in your kitchen. Keep the portions small, the shapes interesting, and the colors bright.  Always include a few favorites and put in a bit of extra work with anything particularly foreign. This is also a good way to reintroduce a previously rejected food. If it doesn’t look too much like the old version they’re more likely to give it an honest go. Plus, you can always whip up a fun yogurt desert to provide extra incentive to finish the less exciting things on the plate.

Yes, I know this is a child development no-no, but using the occasional treats as a motivator won’t harm the average kid. Use your best judgment about this. If your kid is prone to developing food issues then don’t use treats as a motivator.

Now, do I do this for every meal? Not a chance. That would be (even more) indulgent and would strip the concept of its specialness. I let nature dictate the frequency. When my daughter’s tired of the normal routine she’ll ask me for “a small plate with a bunch of little things on it”. And then I get busy.

Below are some and examples of some of my daughter’s favorite “small plate with a bunch of little things on it”. Enjoy!

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Corn on the cob, little cubes of avocado, sliced fresh mozzarella and a yogurt desert with halved grapes, whipped cream and topped with crushed candied pecans.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Guacamole and chips, tofu and soy sauce, with a drizzle of hand colored ( food coloring) vanilla yogurt with strawberries on top.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Mozzarella cheese wrapped in tofu deli slices, fresh carrots with organic ranch dressing in a little ceramic bowl, and fresh strawberries.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Milk, kidney beans, peas and a fresh mozzarella watermelon salad (watermelon and mozzarella stack sprinkled with a pinch of salt and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil...yummy. I always make one for myself as well).

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Hollowed watermelon slice filled with yogurt, sliced strawberries and sprinkled with a bit of crushed english sugar biscuit and served with scrambled eggs and cheese.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Leftover pancake cut in shape of fish ( with jelly bean eye) swimming in a sea of hand colored vanilla yogurt with cut strawberry coral reef and sliced banana bubbles. Served with scrambled eggs and cheese.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Cheese quesadilla, green beans with ranch dressing, peas and sliced avocado.

Kids Tasting  Menu, How to Satisfy a Picky Eater

Leftover chocolate chip pancake cut in shape of pony (with jelly bean eye) standing in a field of scrambled eggs and cheese, with sliced kiwi fruit sun, whipped cream clouds and strawberry flowers.

What Others are Saying About Picky Eaters:
Redefining Kid’s Menus | The Nourished Kitchen

File Under: Children Healthy Eating – Mealtime Tips – Feeding a Picky Eater – Feeding a Fussy Child – Menu Suggestions for Picky Kids – Kid’s and Healthy Eating – Best Foods for Picky Eaters – Kids Recipes- How to Get Your Kid to Eat Healthier


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