16 May Tips For Feeding a Picky Eater- Kosher Edition
By Reva Schlanger MS, RD, CDN
Is your toddler refusing to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and pizza? While picky eating is common in children, following kosher guidelines can make feeding your child even more stressful. The inability to have milk and meat together (or milk right after eating meat) can lead to a limited repertoire of foods for a picky preschooler. That coupled with Shabbat, when families will go out to eat at friends’ houses can create added stress for both a child and a parent. Do not forget about Passover where bread and wheat products are off limits. While this can all seem daunting to tackle, with the right attitude and skills, your child will be able to grow her/his pallet to incorporate a variety of different nutrients despite any kosher restrictions. See below for a few tips on how to help feed a picky eater without burning yourself out in the process.
- Do not give up!
Every child is unique and will have different eating habits. If you have multiple children, try not to compare what each kid eats as that can cause more tension and angst for both you and your children. One of the main keys to helping a picky eater is to not stress! While easier said than done, it is important to remember that picky eating is very common among young children. Even if it feels that your kid will never enjoy fruits or vegetables, do not give up! Research shows that it can take eight to fifteen times to introduce a new food before you child will like it. Gentle persistence can help rid a child’s resistance around a new food.
- Be Creative
Does your child struggle with dairy? Try to get creative and experiment with some nondairy alternatives. For instance, if your child dislikes milk or is lactose intolerant, try to find a milk substitute. Some parents have given their kids Ripple (a nondairy milk alternative make from pea protein) and have been successful. Add some chocolate syrup in it as well to enhance the taste! Is your kid iffy with produce? Once Upon a Farm has kosher fruit blends of different flavors in cute pouches.
Perhaps your kid loves cheese and thus struggles with eating meat. Nondairy cheese alternatives can help spice up a burger and ensure that the laws of Kashrut are being followed. If you kid enjoys having pancakes for breakfast, try adding one or two veggie sausages for added protein- Morning Star makes a lot of vegetarian alternatives that are kid friendly. Of Tov makes chicken nuggets in fun shapes which you can decorate with some cut up veggies!
- Stay Positive
Try and make mealtimes a fun and positive experience. One of the most important things is to try and hide your frustration. Praise your child when he eats well or tries something new. You may need to ignore some bad eating behavior to refocus attention on good behavior. If tension is high at mealtime, try to relieve it by playing a game or telling a joke. If at the Shabbat table, the game Headbandz can be fun to play as a family. Another idea is to read the jokes from laughy taffy wrappers – they are usually kid friendly jokes and might incentivize your kid to try some food before having post Shabbat lunch candy!
- Make Food Fun!
At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits and vegetables. Allow them to pick some foods they enjoy while also picking out 2-3 new special foods to try. When deciding what to cook for Shabbat, have your kids have a say in what to make. Looking through cookbooks together can help open their eyes (and hopefully soon pallets) to new and exciting foods.
At home, encourage your child to help you crack eggs and knead the challah dough. Ask them if they enjoy any toppings on their challah- if you child enjoys sweets try making a cinnamon and sugar crumb topping or adding some dark chocolate chips to the dough. If you make cholent for Shabbat, try having your kid wash the produce and pour the barley into the crock pot. This can help a child feel more inclined to try a new food.
- Stay Consistent
Consistency is key for helping your child develop a more extensive pallet. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If your child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to eat nutritious food. You can provide milk or 100 percent juice with the food but offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk, or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite at meals.
Try as best as possible to continue these set times even on the weekends. Try to have your kid wake up in the same time frame so he/she can get all meals and snacks in. If going out for lunch on Shabbat, call ahead of time to see what they will be having. This can help you decide if you need to bring over any food so that they do not sit at the table hungry. Try not to let your child fill up on challah and grape juice as that will surely ruin their appetite for the meal! Always keep snacks in a bag just in case the meal runs late and goes through snack time. If your kid is having a playdate on Shabbat, try to have the playdate at your house to provide snack time for all the kids.
- Be Organized
Make a list of familiar and unfamiliar foods to add to your cart on the next grocery trip. Try serving unfamiliar foods or flavors young children tend to dislike at first, with familiar foods toddlers naturally prefer. Think of pairing something bitter or sour with a food that is sweet or salty. Pairing broccoli with grated cheese, for example, is a great combination for toddler taste buds. If having meat for dinner, try broccoli with Nish Nosh or Caesar dressing. Add some Tam Tam crackers to a salad for a fun crunch!
From that list, come up with a meal plan of what you will be serving for the week. Think about a mix of safe foods and unfamiliar foods to try. Try to make these meals with eye catching colors that might be intriguing for a toddler. Staying organized and on top of the new foods to introduce each week can help relieve stress off you. Try not to be a short order cook- at the end of the day we want to encourage new foods and flavors. If we give in to our picky child, they learn that trying new foods are optional. Of course, never force a food on your child. Be enthusiastic about trying it together. If tasting it is too scary, start with touching and smelling it. Remember baby steps are great strides in the right direction!
If you are concerned about your child’s diet and growth pattern, talk with your child’s pediatrician. They can help make sure your child is getting all the required nutrients to grow and develop properly. It can be helpful to add a multivitamin to your child’s morning regimen. LIVS and Navitco make children’s gummy multivitamins that are Kosher. From there, it might be helpful to look for a registered dietitian who can help plan meals with you and create more positive meal environments for your child. Call ahead and check to see if there are any dietitians who keep kosher. They may have more experience and guidance around picky eating for a kosher family. At Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services, we have a diverse group of dietitians who can help troubleshoot with you. Positivity and persistence are the key to helping your picky eater!