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What to Feed Picky Eaters  

The most important thing is to continue to offer healthy foods even if your child consistently declines them

What to Feed Picky Eaters

Dr. Jennie Berkovich

Suddenly your two-year-old refuses to touch the apples he loved yesterday. Or your princess wants cottage cheese — at every single meal. Many toddlers go through a phase of picky eating as part of their development. They’re learning to say “no” and express their preferences for the first time.

It’s not unusual for them to eat only one or two things for weeks at a time. Often, they’ll eat well at breakfast and refuse any food the rest of the day. It’s also common for toddlers’ tastes and preferences to change from day to day. This is a normal part of toddlers’ emotional development. The most important thing is to continue to offer healthy foods even if your child consistently declines them.

What can a parent do to make mealtimes less stressful?

  • Choose what goes on the plate, but allow your child to choose how much of it he eats.
  • Avoid making special meals for him and encourage him to eat whatever the rest of the family is having.
  • If he refuses all food, offer a piece of fruit, otherwise the meal is over. Kids will generally not starve themselves and will eat when they're hungry. This may take some time; the key is consistency.
  • Meals should be a relaxing time shared with other family members.
  • Kids shouldn't be punished for refusing to eat, nor should they be bribed with sweets or other things to encourage them to eat.

What are age-appropriate health food options to offer — and which should be avoided?

  • Offer the same foods that the rest of the family is eating with the appropriate modifications to size, amount, and texture.
  • Meals should have a balance of vegetables, protein, whole grains, and fruits.
  • Avoid finger foods that could cause choking. Children don’t fully develop the grinding motion involved in chewing until they’re about four years old, so stick with foods that are small and easy to chew, and avoid those that might be swallowed whole and get stuck in your toddler’s windpipe.

Stay away from:

  • raw carrots
  • whole hot dogs
  • raw celery
  • raw cherries with pits
  • whole grapes
  • round, hard candy
  • nuts
  • popcorn

Note: If your family has dietary limitations such as vegetarianism or veganism, or if you have concerns about your child’s weight gain, be sure to talk to your pediatrician about the need for vitamin and calorie supplementation.

Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician and serves as the director of education for the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) Preventative Health Committee.

Beware of Jellyfish!

Ziporah Shuk

Have you ever been in a conversation in which someone said something hurtful to you? Perhaps it was meant to be helpful, but it took you by such surprise,  you didn’t really hear anything they said after that? It was almost as if you got stung.

One summer my son was in a camp that combined learning and traveling. He called and told me that the camp’s destination that day had been the separate beach in Netanya. I was happy he’d had this opportunity, and asked how the swimming had been.

He replied that they’d been unable to go into the water because when they arrived, they saw the sign the lifeguard had posted, which read MEDUSA. I had a flashback to 12th grade Greek mythology and a woman with snakes from her head, but actually medusa is the Hebrew word for jellyfish and implied a warning that the water that day was infested.

That’s the thing about jellyfish — you generally feel their sting before you even see them. Smart of the lifeguard to caution the swimmers.

What if we could do the same thing in a conversation? Before delivering a difficult message to our children, our students, or their parents, prepare the listener. Say something like, “This might be difficult to hear”, or “This is uncomfortable for me to say,” or “I’m telling you this because I really care.”

This would allow the person to mentally prepare themselves, so the next statement wouldn’t sting as much. And perhaps, they’d be better able to listen and process what you’re saying. If you can’t avoid the sting, at least give fair warning.

Zipora Schuck MA, MS, is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.

Free to Act

Sara Eisemann

Freedom comes from knowing you have the strength to tolerate the consequences of your decisions.

Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed therapist, Directed Dating coach and certified Core Mentor.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 785)

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