Oliver has become a picky eater and I refuse to accept it. So, I am on a mission to provide him with healthy options that appeal to his limited number of acceptable foods. On his list: pizza, pasta, and ice cream. These things are ok in moderation, but the child asks for them daily and that is not ok. Fruit is not on the top of his list anymore, and he bypasses the healthy snacks I have lining the fridge.
In my efforts to encourage and support a healthy diet, my child has discovered his freedom of choice and is using it. I am setting an example eating healthy myself, and my husband is doing the same, but he still wants treats all the time. I want to share some steps I am taking to help my son fall in love with food again and make healthy choices on his own. I will create another post going into these steps in more detail, but for now I will let you know what to expect.
Here are three things that I am doing to cure my picky eater:
#1. Getting rid of processed foods. We have accumulated quite a few processed foods over the months and I am slowly purging our pantry so they no longer exist in our home. If I can make it, I will no longer buy it. Foods like granola bars, granola, cereal, crackers, fruit snacks, bread, cookies, and the list goes on. These things will no longer come in boxed form and I am going to make up recipes, and use every resource I have to create healthy foods he will want to eat.
#2. Eating on a schedule. We now have a daily schedule. Yes, we have a two year old and he has never been on a schedule before. The child just started sleeping through the night a few months ago, so I have been in this fog of sleepless exhaustion for years. Now that is changing and he needs more structure, I need more structure.
Our family is on a schedule now. We eat together, and I am working on set snack times. Usually we snack throughout the day with no thought to what time we are eating. If Oliver eats an hour before dinner, and refuses to eat the healthy meal I have prepared, how can I blame him? He isn’t hungry. The new rule is: no eating within 2 hours of dinner. This will help him eat better at meal times and understand that sometimes you have to wait.
#3. Trying everything! Eating the same foods over and over again can get boring. Kids need to be excited about eating healthy. I have decided to try new vegetables every week. This can seem difficult during the winter months, and it is sometimes. However, vegetables can be added to baked goods, snack mixes, and even sweet snacks to add some variety to the diet without any “food fights”.
Even if Oliver sees his parents eating a new food, he usually says no. He doesn’t want to try them, and most of the time it is because he knows he can just get a granola bar from the pantry. So, when those processed foods are gone he will no longer have that option and be encouraged to try the “new” foods. I am not picking anything that is too odd-looking or flavorful either. Start with mild vegetables such as squashes, parsnips, sweet potato, and beans. When they get used to these foods you can be a little more adventurous.
We are fine with fruits, he wants to pick out fruit. However, once we get them home he will not eat them raw anymore. Oli is now drinking 2-3 smoothies a day, and I am tossing in everything I can find to add some variety to his diet. It is working, he is finally drinking smoothies more often and trying fruit and veggie combinations he would not have liked a few months ago. So, we are making progress there.
Now, onto the recipes! I was up late the other night, trying to bake some “treats” for Oliver that would incorporate some more fruits and veggies into his diet. I came up with two recipes that he loved. The first recipe is a chocolate beet muffin and he devoured them as soon as he saw them on the counter. I have explained my love for beets in a previous post, and you can read about their health benefits here.
Chocolate beet muffins
1 c beet puree
12 dates (dried, rehydrated)
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c coconut milk
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375F and line two 24 cup mini muffin tins with paper liners.
In a small sauce pot, boil the dates in a small amount of water to rehydrate and soften them. I used sunmaid dried dates, so they are much smaller than a medjool date.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and sea salt and mix together.
In a blender or food processor, puree the roasted beets with the coconut milk and rehydrated dates until smooth.
Add the beet mixture and the eggs to the flour and stir well to combine.
Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Let them cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. This recipe will yield about 45 mini muffins. I usually freeze half the batch and we store the other half in the pantry.While I was trying to set up my picture, Oliver climbed up the side of the island and grabbed one of the muffins. He had already eaten 6, so I thought he had enough. He LOVED them! I would rather him eat raw fruits and vegetables, but if this is the only way he will eat them right now, so be it. There are worse things he can eat, and we have eaten them. I felt like these muffins were a win.
I will have many more tips and tricks as I try to figure out how to feed my picky eater. Kids can do great and eat everything, then one day they just stop. It was like a light switch went off and Oliver just decided one day that he didn’t want to eat healthy anymore. It is my mission as his mother to make healthy eating and healthy living fun for him again.
Foods like these muffins are the beginning steps. He still sees these as a treat, so I can use snacks like these to ease him into trying new foods. It will take time, but I don’t want meal times to be a battle. I want my family to sit down together and eat healthy foods and enjoy them.