Nutrition

What kind of picky eater do you have?

By: Yuki Hayashi

Photography by Michael Alberstat Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Michael Alberstat

Nutrition

What kind of picky eater do you have?

By: Yuki Hayashi
Picky eating must be right near the top of the list of parental pet peeves. The good news: It’s common, and most kids outgrow it, says Shannon Crocker, a registered dietitian in Ancaster, Ont.

In the meantime, improve your odds of expanding your child’s palate by tailoring your approach to the type of picky eater you have. “Picky eating can range from eating just a limited type of food to refusing new foods, to eating only very specific foods prepared in a very specific way,” says Crocker.

Take our quiz to identify your fussy eater, and read on for strategies that can help get them from “yuck” to “yum!”

Take the picky eating quiz:
1 When it comes to chicken, a.k.a. “everyone’s favourite protein,” my kid…
a)…will eat one type, usually in nugget form.
b)…has one or two go-to dishes.
c)…inspects it when it arrives on her plate. If there are no veins, differently coloured areas, skin remnants, too little or too much sauce, she will pick at it slowly.

2 My child thinks “eating the rainbow,” involves…
a)…arranging candy in a rainbow shape before devouring it.
b)…only orange carrots and blueberries.
c)…grazing on some raw veggies cut into strips, not in coins or chunks.

3 Dinner night out!
a) We head to a big restaurant chain; it’s the best place to find something we all like.
b) There are only a couple eateries our kid likes, so we go to one of them.
c) We compare menus online, then make reservations for an off-peak hour, so the restaurant will be more likely to follow the special requests we have.

Results:
If you chose mostly As: You have a One-Hit Wonder
Your kid likes what she likes, and it’s usually a variation on a single theme. For instance: french fries, tater tots and mashed potatoes, or white and tan foods only. Certain food groups—often fruit and veg—may be off limits (unless breading and deep-frying is involved).
Tips for taming the pickiness:
  • “Give foods fun names like Super Broccoli Buddies or Fabulous Fun Carrots. It sounds silly, but there’s evidence it can encourage younger children to eat vegetables,” says Crocker.
  • Experiment with different cooking techniques and flavours. If your kid dislikes boiled foods, try lightly sautéing with a bit of garlic instead..
  • When all else fails: offer a small amount of dip.

If you chose mostly Bs: You have an Old-School Conservative
Here’s a child who is, shall we say, extremely resistant to change. If a food isn’t part of the roster he knows and loves (often determined in this pre-fussy toddler days), he’s not interested in that new-fangled nonsense.
Tips for taming the pickiness:
  • Get him involved in grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking. “It helps give kids a sense of involvement, and they might be more willing to eat food they’ve had a hand in preparing,” observes Crocker.
  • Invite a non-picky buddy over for lunch or dinner. “Eating with peers seems to give some kids a little budge to try different foods,” says Crocker.
  • Include whole veggies in smoothies or pasta sauce.

If you chose mostly Cs: You have a Fussy
Your kid likes food straightforward, per her expectations, without any surprises. This fussy eater may eat a reasonable array of foods, provided they are identifiable and prepared “the right way.” For instance: steamed and seasoned with just salt. Woe be on you if you sauce anything unexpectedly!
Tips for taming the pickiness:
  • Meet your kid halfway by offering plain foods at the dinner table and letting her add her own sauce or condiments.
  • “Take small steps to adjust to new tastes,” says Crocker, using the example of vegetable noodle soup. If she likes noodles, start by adding just a spoonful of broth to taste. Another day, add more. Then add a couple small pieces of vegetables or protein. Baby steps!
  • Try a kids’ cooking class. This may motivate her to try new dishes after creating them in class.

Finally, feel free to pick and choose strategies from each section above. “Different strategies work for different kids. It’s trial and error to figure out what works best for your children,” says Crocker.

Check out more help for picky eaters, including recipes!
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