What to do about picky eating?

picky-eaterAre mealtimes a battle in your family and you’re concerned that your child isn’t eating enough healthy food to meet their needs? You’re not alone!

Parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page (www.facebook.com/parentinginottawa) have discussed picky eating, shared tips and tricks, and asked some great questions!

One parent writes that she has a child who eats “very little meat, unless it’s hidden in a lasagna or spaghetti sauce. Sometimes he eats only fruits and vegetables for entire weeks!”

Emily Spencer, a registered dietitian with Ottawa Public Health, responded:

Children often go through phases when they only eat from a small group of foods. Avoiding or eating small amounts of meat isn’t a concern, as long as your child is getting nutrients from other food. Don’t give up!

Continue to offer a variety of foods and over time, your child will likely come around. Have you tried any meat and alternatives like eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu?

And try these tips from Eat Right Ontario:

• Make an egg salad with two eggs, a creamy dressing, celery and cucumbers;
• Add beans to your favourite chili recipe;
• Add tofu to a vegetable stir fry;
• Spread peanut butter on whole grain crackers with apple slices on the side;
• Sprinkle a combination of walnuts, almonds and flaxseeds on a yogurt smoothie;
• Try carrot sticks dipped in hummus.

Another parent writes: “For the last month, my 22-month-old child refuses to eat! He takes 2-3 bites and he’s done!”

Dietician Spencer replied:

It can be frustrating when your child refuses or only eats small amounts of certain foods, but this is very common.

Keep offering a variety of fruits and vegetables and if your child refuses or only eats a small amount, that is OK. Usually if they aren’t pressured to eat, children will eventually come around. Especially if they see you eating those foods too!

Children are very good at knowing how much food their bodies need. Their intake can vary quite a bit, depending on their stage of growth.

While it can be stressful for parents when children’s eating habits change, if they seem happy and healthy, they are likely eating enough.

That being said, if you are concerned about your child’s intake, a check-in with your family doctor isn’t a bad idea.

Did you know: there is an online tool to help with your child’s nutrition? The Nutri-eStep tool is for parents of children ages 18 months to five years, and takes less than 10 minutes to fill out. Check it out at www.nutritionscreen.ca.

If you have questions, you can also call Eat Right Ontario at 1-877-510-5102 and speak with a registered dietitian for free.

Do you have questions? Speak with a Public Health Nurse by calling the Ottawa Public Health Info Line: 613-PARENTS (613-727-3687), (TTY: 613-580-9656) or email ParentinginOttawa@ottawa.ca.

Andrée Ryan is a Registered Nurse and Emily Spencer is a Registered Dietician with Ottawa Public Health.