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Planning Menus for Picky Eaters

There are a few heavy truths when it comes to planning meals for kids. First, kids can not eat the same food every day, for every meal, even if they beg. Second, every person (not just kids) should eat a balanced diet or face uncomfortable consequences. Finally, kids will eat what they are offered eventually, but sometimes tricks that can help.

I have three kids of my own and I baby sit an additional three, most days. Of my own kids, my middle child especially, would be happy to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal, every day of the week. My oldest prefers hot dogs and the youngest just wants snacks for every meal. These foods are okay once in a while, but even having them too frequently can lead to uncomfortable consequences.

When talking food, it is usually poor manners to also discuss stool (I talking about POOP, deal with it). However, when talking about a healthy diet this is a huge part of the conversation. Without foods like fruits, veggies, and high fiber grains kids will get constipated. This is a notorious problem for kids learning to use the potty. If a tot is constipated, it’s going to be uncomfortable to try a number two over the scary toilet bowel. Don’t let this happen, it will slow down potty training and it can be uncomfortable or even painful.

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes kids get too much fiber. When parents go on a diet, kids should not be forced to diet with them. Kids have their own diet needs and if you’re in any doubt about what your tot should be eating, talk it over with your pediatrician or children’s nutrition expert. However, this should be a no-brainer. Too much high fiber with a lack of dairy, protein, or lower fiber grains like wheat bread, can and will cause diarrhea.

Foods impact more than the digestive track. The foods we give our kids can cause them to more sluggish and less active, especially excessive amounts of junk food. Kids who are losing their baby teeth should have a healthy understanding of dental hygiene and too much high sugar beverages like soda and juice, as well as too much candy can cause kids to experience serious tooth decay. Additionally, some research suggests that kids can perform better in school and in sports by adjusting their diet accordingly.

I have to admit that I have given into the requests of my kids more often than I should have and allowed the snacks in place of dinner with family or the mac n’cheese instead of what’s been planned for family meals. However, each day I have a new opportunity to try again. With a few tricks that I’ve picked up from school teachers, children’s television programs, and other parents I’ve learned to keep offering my kids healthy foods over and over. They do eventually try the food and often times discover, it’s not that bad.

These tricks that I’ve picked up, are sometimes winners and sometimes not so much. My inflection or tone of voice and the personality of the child can make a difference in the effectiveness of the trick. Here are a few of these tricks:

  • Go on an adventure! Tell them they are “Food Adventurers” and make trying new foods into a game.
  • Reverse psychology (my husband came up with this trick.) Tell the kids that the baby carrots on their plate are just sitting their for a friend. Tell them you promised the friend that their food would be safe on (son or daughter’s name) plate. Then say, “so don’t eat those ones, okay?” This is more effective when done in a playful and silly voice.
  • Make it a rule to try something new. For my group, they are becoming more reasonable as far as their cognitive understanding so explaining and bargaining are a little easier now. My rule (that I took from one of my parents) is that the kids must try one bite for every year of their age. Example, a three year old must try 3 bites of a new food before they can dismiss it.

I have included below, links to the menu I put together for lunches for my toddler group. I try to balance these meals and in some instances offer a recipe for a “healthier” alternative to the pre-made box version. As a mom, recipes should never take more than 20 minutes to prep, so I do not include any that are difficult or require too many steps to create.

I hope that my menu and recipes will be helpful to many of the daytime guardian angels out there. I appreciate that the topic of poop can and should be discussed. So if you, the reader, have made it this far into this post I thank you for bearing with me. I very much believe that offering picky eaters healthier options and doing so repeatedly, will be beneficial to both the care taker and the picky eater.

Thank you and God Bless!

Please try the following links to find a full weeks worth of lunch and afternoon snack ideas.

Week 1 Menu and Recipes

Week 2 Menu and Recipes

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