Throwback Tuesday: Dealing with a Picky Eater
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD
What do you do when you have a picky eater? It can make packing lunch quite the challenge. I received a question about this on Mom Dishes It Out from a concerned mother whose daughters all of a sudden decided they did not like eggs, avocado, peas, carrots, mozzarella cheese, Muenster cheese or tomatoes — many of those being foods they once loved. I offered a variety of lunch options, and gave what might be a surprising answer. I explained to the mom why she shouldn’t stop serving her children all the foods they were now refusing to eat. When it comes to packing lunch, sometimes you have to be creative and think outside the box! (I understand many of my blog readers may not be aware of my former blog, so once a week, I will be sharing older posts from that site. Enjoy!)
“So we are reaching the picky toddler phase already — my daughters will be 17 months on Sunday and they have decided they do not like a lot of the foods they used to, such as eggs, avocado, peas, carrots. They also do not like mozzarella cheese, tomatoes (but like tomato sauce), and no Muenster cheese. Needless to say, I am in need of some lunch options.”
1. I am thinking of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and tuna with cranberries and apples (they like their tuna plain — weird, but I do not ask).
2. Are there healthy deli meat options?
3. We usually give whole wheat pasta with ground beef for dinner and/or turkey meatloaf or chicken from chicken soup. They do like brown rice, but now no veggies.
What does Mom Dishes It Out suggest?
Real Mom Answer:
I most definitely remember those days and it seems the food adventures continue. Do not fret if your child or children decide they are no longer interested in eggs, avocado, peas or carrots. It may not mean that they no longer like these foods, rather they may have grown tired of these foods. Keep these foods in your children’s diet or you will soon be left with no additional options. Instead, continue to offer one of these foods with new favorite foods every few days so that your child continues to be exposed to their former favorite foods. They will also realize they don’t have to eat it. Reintroducing foods is key in food exposure.
So when thinking lunch options, you can still include a side of avocado or egg, just in a new form. Think outside the box:
1. Peanut butter with bananas is a great option for lunch. Serve with whole milk and a veggie squeezer.
2. Tuna with apples and cranberries sound delish! Just be sure the cranberries are easily chewed and not a potential choking hazard. Most important, be sure the tuna is chunk light from skipjack and not albacore to minimize the mercury level. Only give the tuna in 3 oz portions and no more than 3 times per month to your toddler.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, canned light tuna is the safer choice (with 0.12 parts per million of mercury). They advise that children “under six years of age can eat up to three 3-ounce portions per month. Older children and adults can safely eat it once a week. But look out for “gourmet” or “tonno” labels. They are made with bigger yellow fin tuna and can contain mercury levels comparable to canned white.” (For more information on this topic, please visit the Environmental Defense Fund.)
3. In terms of deli meat, there are now deli meats that are without added nitrites. However, they can still contain nitrites or nitrates from the salt or celery salt listed in the product. Your best bet is to make a homemade organic turkey or chicken and serve this in small pieces.
4. Brown, wild and white rice or whole-wheat pasta with beef, meatloaf and/or chicken are great options to serve the kids. Think about adding a tomato sauce with pureed veggies to this blend. Ratatouille and pesto are other great options to serve with pasta and proteins.
5. Finally, some serious lunch options:
— Pesto Pizza – Spread pesto sauce over a toasted mini whole-wheat pita and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan or provolone cheese. Serve with sliced apples.
— Hummus Wrap – Thickly spread some hummus and a thin layer of avocado on a wrap and roll. Serve with pitted olives, cucumbers, cheese cubes and thin blanched carrots.
— Grilled Cheese with cheddar (use real cheese, not cheese food product) melted on each side of the bread and an egg white in the middle for added protein. Serve with something red – grapes and strawberries for color.
— Mashed Cauliflower – Try the yellow and/or purple varieties for added antioxidants with a homemade chicken cutlet (or Bell and Evans for a quick fix) and sweet potato cubes.
— Sundae Yogurt Parfait – Mix Greek yogurt with granola, frozen fruits pieces and wheat germ in to a yummy bowl for a an easy lunch. Sprinkle with nuts and top with a berry. Take caution with nuts in case of food allergies.
— Turkey Meatballs with veggies like onions or peppers finely chopped into the meatball. Serve with child’s favorite tomato sauce and multicolor pasta.
— Chicken Soup with roasted asparagus tips (just the tips and roasted with olive oil) and a baked sweet potato.