18. Feeding A Picky Child with Kids Eat in Color

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Show Notes

To foodie parents with a picky eater at home, it can feel like they’re living with an anti-foodie.

Jennifer and Family, courtesy

Luckily, Jennifer Anderson of Kids Eat in Color has some tips and mitigation strategies to help parents get through making dinner and packing that back to school lunch to provide their child with balanced nutrition.

Jennifer Anderson/Kids Eat in Color

The Flaky Foodie 

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Coming Soon. This transcript is computer generated and only lightly edited. It may contain grammar/syntax errors.

Jess 0:12
Hi, it’s Jess, and you’re listening to another episode of The flaky foodie podcast. The only show where the discussion is delicious and there’s chatter to chew on. If you’re listening, I’m assuming that you’re a foodie or someone who’s into food the same way that I’m into food. And if you have any little ones running around your house, you know that they can feel very much like an anti foodie, or someone who doesn’t want to indulge in every food imaginable. They just want to stick with something plain or maybe stick with something that you don’t know what it is. So to keep maybe you and definitely me to from pulling our hair out while we prepare our evening dinner or while we fix those infamous back to school lunches, I will talk with picky eating expert Jennifer Anderson of kids eat in color. It’s going to be a phenomenal interview with great tips. So please tune in and right before that, I’ll tell you where I’ve been for the past two or three months.

So before we get to our interview with Jennifer, I just want to say welcome to everyone to Season Two of the podcast. And thank you so much to everyone who listened to supported and shared the very first season. This season, it has great things in store. But first of all, I want to apologize because I meant to have a very big send off of the first season. Make some announcements on the air on the podcast, but burnout kind of reared its ugly head a few things did not fall into place the way I planned and had to be shelved until this season. And I’m excited to finally bring all of that to you. Because I mean, this season is multifaceted there’s so many different people have so many different backgrounds that I get to talk with. I talk with a food truck owner, I talk with a cookbook author, I talk with a historian who knows so much about the history of food and I can’t wait to bring all of that to your eardrums. But before we get into that, another thing I have to emphasize is that my youtube channel will be jumping. On this season. Almost every audio episode will have a YouTube counterpart including this one. The interview will be available on YouTube as well I am TheFlakyFoodie on YouTube. Go there, subscribe and be in the know so that you’ll be there when a new interview drops. But let’s get back to the show. And after a brief message I will talk with Jennifer from kids eat in color

It’s is back to school time. So make sure your little one has everything they need for an A plus lunch. Start your free Instacart plus trial to get unlimited free delivery on orders $35 and up. To sign up today for free just visit my page at to take advantage of this very special opportunity. Today we have with us Jennifer Anderson. She’s a registered dietitian, master’s in public health. And she’s the mind behind kids eat in color, which is a phenomenal resource for the parents of picky eaters. So welcome to the show. Jennifer, I’m so excited to have you here today.

Unknown Speaker 3:55
Thank you so much for having me.

Jess 3:57
Yes. So tell me about how kids eat in color got started. You’re a mom, and you kind of have struggles with picky eating in your kids lives. So how did that kind of translate into kids getting color?

Jennifer A. 4:11
Yeah, so I was standing in the pediatricians office when my son was nine months old. And the pediatrician looked me in the eye and said he’s not gaining weight. I was shocked. I’m a dietitian. It turns out kids don’t care what you do for your work. But I was shocked. And I immediately began specializing my child feeding knowledge just to help him and then my second son was a picky eater. And I think through all this, yes, I was helping my son and I was gaining all the tools that I needed. But I felt that deep angst that parents feel when their kids aren’t eating well. And I really wanted to help connect other people to community where they felt like they weren’t alone. And they knew that feeding kids is tricky. And if you have a hard time feeding your child, it’s not your fault. You’re not a bad parent. But I also wanted to help parents know what’s typical, what’s not? How do you help your child? What should your child be eating? What can you do? What are the tools available to you. And that’s how kids eat in color ended up being a resource center for parents how to how to feed their kids, how to know what’s typical, you know, providing them with screeners and things like that.

Jess 5:30
So let’s talk a little bit about child development. Most of the time, when we talk about picky eaters, my son is four most of the time we talk about beating, picky eating is between the age of like one and four. Developmentally what’s kind of going on during that time that can lead to picky eating or lead to your child being picky.

Jennifer A. 5:50
Sure, so around the age of one, kids often start developing something called near phobia or the fear of new foods. That’s not the only cause of picky eating. That’s one of about 200 causes. 200 is not an official number. But you know, it’s helpful in some ways, we don’t want kids wandering around and eating mushrooms in the yard. But we do want them to eat the foods that maybe they haven’t seen since last growing season. And so those are new as well. And I think the challenge is kind of how we respond to that typical pig eating, I generally think of that kind of emergence of picky eating for some kids as a typical phase that many kids go through how we respond to that. And whether your kid is showing signs of more atypical picky eating, or something that’s maybe more serious, can kind of change the change the trajectory of where your child is gonna go, is it going to become more serious? Or is it just going to kind of stay the same?

Jess 6:53
So you mentioned, there’s many, many causes of picky eating, when you’re kind of trying to treat picky eating, how do you kind of determine what the cause is?

Jennifer A. 7:04
Great question. Of course, this is like more in depth. So like in our in our picky eating course, like we have a whole section dedicated to this, because it can be really complicated. But I will say this, we have a quick screener on our website that at least can tell you is your child, what we would consider it to be kind of typically picky. Or is it something more serious? If you just need kind of a one minute, hey, where am I at on the spectrum? But there’s genetic factors. There’s factors, just from parenting, what are you? What are you doing, I always like to remind parents, they’re not the only reason their child might be picky. So even if you’re doing something that’s unhelpful, it’s probably something that I’ve also done and all parents have done. So it’s not like you’re you’re ruining your child for being a human. There’s also sensory issues, your child may have a more intense or less intense experience with food. And your child may also, there’s a recent paper that just came out, and I don’t like to cite single studies, because that’s not how research works. But I will make an exception today because it was so interesting. They were comparing executive function skills in child’s brain with picky eating. Just the concept of this study was mind blowing to me who even thought to look at this. And what this particular study explored was different executive functions. So for example, one of those is flexibility of thinking, can they be flexible? Can they not? Kids who were not flexible in their executive functioning, were more likely to be picky, which is like mind blowing. Now we can’t we can’t take this away. We can’t go home and say, Oh, my gosh, inflexible people who are picky eaters, we can’t that’s not what we can take from the study. But what we can take is, it’s interesting, there may be relationship with how our brains work in executive functioning, and whether we can be flexible enough to eat foods that are not what we’re expecting. So there’s so many factors that we’re still discovering, and still understanding that helps us understand are people willing to eat a lot of foods or not?

Jess 9:17
So let’s talk a little bit about the kind of feelings that kind of happened when your child is a picky eater. What did you yourself experience when your child was undergoing this kind of picky eating phase? And what have you seen other parents? What kind of feelings do they have when their child was a picky or is a picky eater?

Unknown Speaker 9:37
Sure. So when I was standing in that pediatricians office, I felt like an absolute failure. As a mother, I’ve been a mom for, you know, all of nine months, right? And she’s telling me that my child is falling off the growth chart. And what I find is parents who have picky eaters or a child who has maybe an iron deficiency or anything related to eating, we immediately internalize that as our own failure. Our her own, we feel defeated, we feel frustrated, we feel angry, we feel anxious, all these feelings just come rushing in. And of course, I think especially as moms who have kind of we’ve made their child inside our body, right, and then, you know, if you’re, you’re breastfeeding, you’re also feeding the child with your body. And so just and even if you’re bottle feeding, it just doesn’t even matter, right, as, as moms, we have this, like really visceral connection to feeding our kids. And I think we just take it really personally, yes, you know, we feel it in our souls that we have failed our child in some way, you know, I don’t know that there’s a way around those feelings.

Jess 10:40
There may be no way around those feelings, is there a way to kind of mitigate that and to make dinnertime a better experience for parent and child?

Unknown Speaker 10:50
Absolutely. I think we always have to acknowledge, hey, the feelings are going to be there. And we can accept those feelings kind of for what they are, or at least practice accepting that when it comes to the actual mealtime, and you’re sitting across the table from your child who, who may show signs picky eating from the age of even six months, and they may not grow out of their challenges, you know, my Picky Eater is seven, and he still struggles. I mean, he has an amazing variety of foods that he will eat, because of all the work that we’ve done, but I can still see it. As someone who specialized in this, I can see it, I could see how hard it is for him and how he has to work at that. The big thing, I think if you take one tool away, where you’re thinking, Okay, how do we reduce some stress, it’s really to stop pressuring your child to eat. When you get in there. And you I, even last night, you know, my sons, we’re not eating their chicken. And my husband and I have a lot of knowledge about child feeding. Like, this is my job. My son, my husband is sitting across the table going, this is your protein. And, you know, he’s not the only one. I don’t say this to bash on my husband, because obviously I have it probably did it a week ago, we just moved. And so things are you know, everybody’s on edge. But we really want our kids to eat, did that work? Did it work him like putting his hands on the table and say this is your protein?

Jess 12:26
The kid is like so?!

Jennifer A. 12:29
I mean, done. And now they know enough. And my my seven year old he is like, Mommy, milk has eight grams of protein. So he’s thinking, hey, I already ate a protein for breakfast? Like, why do I need to eat my chicken. But I think I think we get emotionally involved at dinner time. And when we do that kids aren’t going to eat for us. Like, the more we push, the more they are like. So what

Jess 12:59
it’s like, as a kid, you don’t have much control over your life, you know, people pick you up, take you where you need to go and tell you what to need to do. And food can kind of be that way to get independence, you know.

Unknown Speaker 13:12
I mean, it’s really one of the few things that you really have, like, you’re in control of going to the bathroom, and you’re in control of eating, and we let our kids pick their clothes. So they’re in control of that. But I mean, beyond that, you know, we set the schedule, we do that, you know so much.

Jess 13:29
So if we can’t sit them down at the table and be like, Hey, you eat your food, and you do it now, how do we? How do we as parents get kids to eat a wide variety of different foods?

Unknown Speaker 13:41
Sure. So I do think there are so just as we were talking about, you know, there’s some things they have to do, they do have to come to the table, that’s to come to the table, they have to sit down. Depending on your child, you have to kind of figure out what their attention span is. Some kids do you have to say, you can just say, Hey, you got to sit here until everybody’s done. That doesn’t work for my child who’s extremely high energy, right? So with him, we’re kind of flexible on that. And we say, okay, give us 10 minutes, 12 minutes, we try to be engaging at dinnertime, but they gotta come to the table. They have to sit for an age appropriate amount of time, whatever you determine that is, and they’re not in charge of the menu, right? Because if they were, there’ll be a lot of mac and cheese right, which is understandable. But really, we can provide that variety. We can show it to them over and over and over. Maybe for example, I served stir fry the other night. We haven’t had a stir fry in ages. And it’s a tricky food for my kids because it’s mixed especially my kid he struggles with kind of trying those new foods. So mixed foods are really stressful for him. So and you know stir fry everything Mix mix together. So I made the vegetables together. And then I made the meat separate. And then I serve white rice, which is something that my son feels very comfortable with. He loves rice, put some butter on it, whatever. So it’s like, okay, there’s gonna be something that he likes. They’re usually likes. You never know what kids, right? But he usually likes that. And so I’m going to serve everything separately, and I’m just gonna let him choose. Well, he definitely he started eating the rice. And then we, you know, different people are eating vegetables and chicken on their plates. And I say, Would you like some of these vegetables? And he kind of looks at it. It’s like, what is that? It’s like, well, it’s this, this cabbage, and it’s got some, whatever else was in there. He’s like, Oh, take a taste. But he wanted it on a separate plate. mean, don’t contaminate his plate, right. So here’s a little tasty play. He takes a bite. And he says, Okay, I’ll have more. The kids ended up fighting over it. They liked it so much.

Jess 16:04
Over vegetables, right? That’s a huge win.

Unknown Speaker 16:07
Right. Right. But I think it’s because it was separate and no pressure. Yeah. And then at the end, he was like, why don’t you give me any chicken was like, Oh, I mean, you can have some if you want some. So we ended up eating it. But in a way that felt okay, and safe and comfortable for him. And because it was low pressure, they were able to kind of say, Okay, we’ll try it. And they ended up liking it, which, you know, doesn’t always happen. But I guess if you put enough soy sauce on it. It tastes good. So

Jess 16:38
So I was reading that, as opposed to kind of fixing your child’s plate and kind of sitting in front of them with things on Is is family style, where you kind of pass a dish around and ask them what dishes from the family meal that they would like, Is that helpful? Does it even matter or is it more of your approach, like saying you don’t you don’t have to eat that if you don’t want to.

Unknown Speaker 16:58
Yeah, so you know, every family is going to be different. And you kind of had when the kids were little, I put the food on their plate. When you are putting food on their plate, I highly recommend small portions, like think about what you want them to eat, cut that in half, and then cut that in half again, I like to call these wishful portions. Like as parents, we wish our child ate this amount of food. But when we make it really small, it’s not overwhelming to them, they feel more comfortable. And then they learn to ask for more. So it’s a couple of things like they feel less overwhelmed, which can help picky eaters, they can also listen to their body, am I hungry? Am I Am I full? Do I want more do I not. And then it also reduces food waste, right? So if you’re going to pre plate, that’s a great idea. If you want to serve family style that can give kids who want more independence, like a feeling that they have a little bit more control over what they’re eating. So for kids who kind of want that control and independence, family style can be great. It’s also more messy, in my opinion. And then sometimes the kids don’t even put the food on their plate. At this point, my kids are mostly offended. If I put all the food on their plate. That’s not your job. That’s my job to get on my plate. So you know, I think we have to kind of balance like, what are your kids? Like? What are you like, what’s your family situation like the other day? Like I said, we just moved and there’s dishes and stuff all over the kitchen. And I put together their lunches, and they didn’t complain, you know, it’s like, but at dinnertime? No way. No way.

Jess 18:39
So we may have listeners from our older generation where you know, you just eat what’s put in front of you. of why is that not necessarily feasible in this modern time?

Unknown Speaker 18:50
Yeah. So I always like to start by saying in different times different things make sense. So if you have grown up in a time when food wasn’t always accessible, or you’re currently living in a time when food isn’t always accessible, it makes 100% sense that you sit down and you are forced to eat everything on your plate. So there’s no I don’t, I don’t think there’s a moral issue. And if somebody is not doing this, you’re probably doing it for a reason. Right. So I always like to start by just acknowledging that reality. If you are in a place where you have plenty of food, and it’s plentiful, and you know, your kids are going to birthday parties and you’re exposed to all sorts of different things. You’re maybe going to restaurants, there’s a ton of food available. And if you’ve been taught to Always clean your plate, you’re going to end up eating way more than you may want to. Now sometimes we want to eat a lot, right? Cool, that’s fine. You know, Thanksgiving, I am going to eat, pass what feels comfortable. I’m just I’m going to do that and I’m gonna enjoy that experience. Right. But I, I want to be able to choose when I do that when I don’t, right? I have gone to more birthday parties, where I’ve eaten cake that I don’t even like, I don’t even really like cake. So going to these parties, I’m eating these huge pieces of cake that I don’t even like, because I feel like I have to. And I have to finish it. I would much rather be able to go to a birthday party and say, Oh, no, I, I actually don’t want the cake. Because truly, I don’t like cake. I just want the ice cream. Or, or give me the potato chips, like something I actually enjoy. I want to I want to have that choice. And I want my kids to have that choice as well. I don’t want that because of how I train them to always finish their plate and never listen to kind of what their internal body is telling them. I want them to be able to be able to choose like, do I want to eat a lot? Do I want to eat a little Do I like this food do I not. And it also kind of teaches kids to really kind of tune in to what their inside body is saying. And when we teach kids that it’s a skill that can go way beyond even eating?

Jess 21:11
Yes. So in this day and age two, you mentioned before that if a family is in a tough situation, parents may tell them to kind of finish their plate, you have to eat what’s put in front of you. But if the child is a picky eater, that situation can become very stressful. So if especially with rising food costs and kind of gasoline prices rising, putting families in difficult situations, how would somebody in a difficult kind of financial situation kind of deal with a picky eater in their home?

Unknown Speaker 21:41
Yeah, it’s so challenging. I think that’s really tricky. And that just reminds me we have a low cost meal plan that we give to a family. If you’re If a family is like in need, you can get it for free. So if you need to kind of find a meal plan that will help you really stretch your food dollars that’s available for free on our website. But I think that the challenge, as you said with a picky eater is you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for food waste and things like that. And that’s one of the reasons why we really suggest the micro portions, right? Make it small, think about what you want them to eat, cut it in half, cut it in half again, give them that if there’s a food that you want them to learn how to like to eat, you don’t have to give them a lot that they’re going to be wasting, for example, maybe you want them to learn to eat like peas, you could buy frozen peas, or canned peas. And you can take especially frozen, you can take out two peas, put them on their plate, that’s an exposure and you still have a bag safe in the freezer. Right? So you can kind of think creatively, like, I want my kids to learn to like a variety of foods, but I don’t want to be wasting food, how can I do that? How can I cook food that can be separated out so that they can eat the thing that they like, and the rest of the family can eat the rest of the meal. So I like to think of these kind of deconstructed things my, my son could have just eaten the rice. And the other family could have eaten the chicken and the vegetables. And there could have been another meal where he would eat, you know, chicken and whatever else right? Over the course of the day, he’s likely to get everything he needs, as long as they’re kind of served throughout the day. So I think, kind of change your mindset of instead of making a casserole, which sometimes can feel like together, everything’s together. It’s easy, and it’s quick, and it’s inexpensive, right? But if you’re picky eater doesn’t like it, then you’re in, then they can’t eat anything. And it can really build up a lot of stress for everybody in the family. So instead of cooking that casserole, can you cook those foods separated out, so that maybe your child can either check in or candy the broccoli but doesn’t have to eat? The other things?

Jess 23:58
Let’s talk briefly about sugar. I know sugar is kind of a thing and families we don’t want kids to have too much sugar. We don’t want to overfeed them sugar how can we make sure that kids kind of have a healthy balance with sweets? Well, they they don’t overindulge or kind of when they get older, restrict themselves from eating sugars or foods that are bad for you.

Unknown Speaker 24:21
Yeah, so tricky. As a parent, you have so much influence over your child. The way that you talk about sugar and foods in your home. It’s going to have a really big impact on your child moving forward. If you’re constantly saying this food is bad, and this food is good. Your child is going to kind of internalize this black and white view of food. This food is bad this food is good. Sugar is bad, but it tastes really good. Does that mean bad things taste good. Does that mean I’m bad if I eat the bad thing, right and so we begin to attach morality to foods which is good complicated. And it doesn’t really help our kids moving forward, it kind of starts to confuse the relationship. Put on top of that, maybe we’re saying, Hey, you can get dessert if you eat your broccoli. Or if you’re good at the bank, I’ll give you a lollipop, or you know, things like this. And we begin to use desserts as a bribe, to get kids to do things, rewards, rewards. And that makes it even more complicated, right? So now they’re like, oh, lollipops must be really good. And broccoli must be really bad if my parent has to give me a reward to eat it. Right? And so we begin to do all these things with sweets that complicate the relationship. And then on top of it, then we start restricting it, saying, Oh, we can never have that. Except when you go to a birthday party, and then you’re going to binge eat it because you never ever have it at home until it becomes complicated. I don’t think there’s any easy answers here. Some, you know, I don’t have a candy bowl out in my house. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with. Other families are like, Yeah, we got a candy bowl sitting in the living room, kids can eat candy whenever they want. And their kids are like, yeah, no big deal. I think so much depends, is your child neurodivergent? Do they have? Are they more attracted to candy than other kids? Does your child really not like sweets? Do they have that gene that kind of makes sweets better than not? There’s all these things that complicate it. And I think the more we kind of change our language first, and we stop using it as a reward. We have it but we have it in within reason for what that means for our family, we begin to kind of tone it down a little bit. Just be like this is part of life. You know, our kids have sweet things often all serve like a sweet, like maybe ice cream alongside of their dinner, and just like not make a big deal out of it. It’s like, hey, it’s here, you can eat it if you want. Of course, they always do want to eat it. But I’ve seen them eat like the entire plate of food before they eat their ice cream, because it’s just like, oh, that’s their meal. Not to say my kids wouldn’t eat like a whole box of cookies, if they were hungry and the cookies were there. But you know, we can begin to use these tools to experiment with different things with their hands.

Jess 27:13
So let’s talk a little bit about you know, as a parent, it can be stressful trying to feed a picky eater. I know personally, I’ve been kind of guilty of kind of giving in to the picky eater, okay, this is your safe meal or the meal that you feel comfortable eating. You can have it every night for as long as you want. How do you kind of reintroduce variety, if you’ve kind of fallen off the wayside with being vigilant about exposure and things like that, or maybe just listening to this now realizing, hey, I need to expose my kids to more fruits and vegetables. Right? First

Unknown Speaker 27:47
of all, you’re totally normal, great parent, if you’re doing that I’ve done the exact same thing. Instead of serving their favorite meal, seven nights in a row, you can say, hey, six of the nights, we’re going to serve your favorite meal. And on one night, we’re going to serve something now you can also serve their favorite meal and an add something else on. For example, let’s say the meal is macaroni and cheese. This is what they’re eating for lunch every single day, months on end. Instead of just having the macaroni and cheese you can also serve peas on the side, or broccoli or carrots, you know, whatever you think they might or apple slices, what you’re beginning to do, even when you take that very small step is just put that idea in their mind that there’s more, there’s more out there, they don’t necessarily have to eat it. But they could eat it if they wanted to. And the more they see it, the more they may become curious. Now some kids, they’re never going to try another food, these children who never, ever try another food, and only kind of drop foods off their list and eat the same meal for months on end. Those children usually need more help. That’s usually exposure is not going to be enough now for a lot of kids exposure, repeated exposure, a low pressure environment that’s going to enable them to really succeed and thrive and grow. But for kids who are like, wow, this is really stressful for me, my child is never ever responding in the way that I would hope never. In that situation, there’s usually more and they need more help. And that’s the situation that we find a lot of people in our picky eating course is. I just I can’t I can’t break through that. And usually that child has a lot more hurdles to jump over. I find those parents often feel the most stressed out and they’re saying Oh, I like somehow I feel my child. But usually what it means is your child has more internal hurdles to get over to try new foods than then you can see on the outside.

Jess 29:56
So what is the response that the parents should take? You know the way they’re trying is not working, they’ve kind of tried everything in the book, nothing is quite working, there may be something deeper there, what are some next steps to take.

Unknown Speaker 30:08
So if your child is losing weight, developing major nutrition deficiencies or something I highly recommend, get yourself to the pediatrician, your child checked out. It’s always worth doing your due diligence in that way. But if you’re like, Okay, I need some more tools, I need some advanced techniques here that I can try at home, I need a framework to help my child to really stop enabling that picky eating, and kind of break down whatever foundation is there, that’s not working, rebuild a new foundation, figure out what’s the cause of my child’s picky eating, move forward and help them expand. That is something that a picky eating course, like our better bites, picky eating course does, is it really kind of meets parents where they’re at. And not only that, I think finding a community of parents is so important, because you don’t want to feel alone in that situation. I know because I felt alone in that situation. And it’s, it feels crappy. We, we need to hear that other people are also struggling. And it’s not just us. And we also need to, you know, see the other person, it’s like, oh, my gosh, they have problems that are completely different than mine, just as stressful. And when we have that empathy for others, and when we also experienced that ourselves, it can be so transformational for us. So you know, that’s why I feel like that’s why the kids in color, social media communities have grown so much as people don’t want to feel alone. And that’s why we also have the group area in our picky eating courses. Because, yeah, you go through a picky eating course. And, you know, what would you really need is you need to go through the course and you need to be able to ask questions of your fellow fellow parents. Like, hey, I had a really bad day. And, and they’re probably going to be like, Oh, hey, I really had a bit that day, too. And someone also jumped in and say, Oh, I had one last week. But guess what, today was good for me. And when we have those sorts of interactions in the context of a learning environment, it can be so powerful for people, you know, and that could be your friend next door, as well, you know, but I think finding those people can be really powerful.

Jess 32:14
So let’s talk about back to school. I know when my child started preschool, it was very stressful time because I was like, How do I pack him something that I know he will eat? For sure, so that he gets the nutrition he needs throughout the day. If there’s a parent who is sending their child to the school, they’re picky eater for school. So for the very first time, what are some kind of steps that you can do to prepare and to kind of make that as seamless a transition as possible?

Jennifer A. 32:42
Yeah, first of all, give yourself some grace, because it’s a transition for everyone. Yeah, I’m pretty sure. My son when he started kindergarten, did not eat his lunch for like, a year. I was like, how is he making it through the day, it didn’t matter what I sent, I said, anything and everything. And he never ate it. Maybe he’d take like two nibbles. I still don’t understand how he managed that. But I think if you do have a picky eater, and the lunch experience is stressful for them, and they’re not eating, try what you can try to find a lunch, little eat, and then also really pack in their breakfast whenever they come home, as long as it’s before dinner, right? Because you would want them to eat dinner. But if they come home, you know, sometime in the afternoon, give them a really big meal at that time, because they will have missed their lunch. Now ideally, you will find something that your child will eat at school, if you have a picky eater. Only send foods that you think they like just don’t, don’t try to be a Pinterest parent. Don’t try to like do anything. Now if you have a child who maybe likes to explore foods at school, because there are those as well. Sure, send some exposure foods and some things that they won’t eat at home, but they will eat at school. That’s cool. But if they don’t just send foods that are that are easy. Now, one of the reasons that kids have a hard time eating is they often don’t have enough time at school to eat their lunch. The more you can do at home to make it easy for them to eat, the more likely they are to eat it. So for example, maybe you make a sandwich, you get assigned a whole sandwich with your child or a half or whatever they but they have to take a bite and then chew it and then do other things. If you take that same sandwich and you cut it into bite sized pieces ahead of time, you’ve just taken every cut you’ve made has been one less bite for your child. Right? So instead, they can just pop those in their mouth. That’s going to save them a little bit of time. It’s going to be a little bit easier, a little more friendly, sticking a toothpick with it and and suddenly they’re like, Oh, that was fun. I tell you to pick magic is real, I won’t eat something, give them a toothpick, and tag me on social media because for sure to fix. There’s something about them that really do amazing things, but but just try to meet your picky eater where they’re at. Don’t send foods that require a ton of chewing, like celery. Unless your child really loves celery, and it’s really a peanut butter, it takes a lot of chewing. So pick something that doesn’t require quite as much chewing and that can help them

Jess 35:36
issue that I had that was kind of unique is that all of the foods that my child like were like hot foods, the main, the main bulk of the calories were hot foods, and you know, at school, they’re not necessarily going to have the opportunity to kind of reheat that lunch. So what are some kind of workarounds you can do when that is necessarily the issue? Sure.

Unknown Speaker 35:57
So that’s great. I learned how to heat up a thermos. I feel like how did I remember thinking I want to send some warm soup to school with my child. I didn’t know how to heat up a thermos. I had to like go Google it. And you know, like four years ago, right? So I heated thermos can be really helpful for your child. So there is I don’t usually like to get behind brands, but there is a I think it’s an igloo thermoses or the fuego thermoses, or something by igloo. Now, I can’t even remember the names, right, but it needs a Foucault. Although I’m not sure on the pronunciation of that. They have this really kind of child sized thermos. I don’t know if the three year olds could work it in preschool, but probably four and five year olds can and you can practice with them at home ahead of time. I have put all sorts of hot foods in those. And if you just dumped in the boiling water ahead of time, reheat it, and then put in steaming hot food. At lunch, it’s often still warm, and they can eat. They can have some soup, like I’ve sent chili I’ve sent soup like hot lentil soup I’ve sent out also like hot pasta, things like that. So probably like a rice and chicken sort of thing, or rice and beef or maybe even stir fry. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But I think you there are ways to send hot dishes in these thermoses. There’s also the Omi box that is a lunch box that has a thermos compartment in it. And you can send hot or cold foods in that it doesn’t work quite as well in terms of temperature as some of the others. But you can also add in some, some like other foods on the side of it. So like you could send chili and crackers with a couple of apple slices and it could all be in this one box. So there are some options out there if you do want to send hot foods, and that can really help if you do have a child who prefers to only eat hot foods.

Jess 38:12
I’m in a picky eating group on Facebook. And one of the big things that has kind of changed school lunches is the rise of nut allergies. And there was a child who only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwich was like their safe lunch food and they couldn’t bring it into school. So how do you kind of mitigate when your child only likes something that’s an allergen and they can’t bring it to school anymore?

Unknown Speaker 38:37
That is so hard I know that is I actually had my child ate more foods but peanuts were like the one energy dense food that was helping them stay on the growth chart and and a kid in his class developed allergies and we couldn’t send those anymore. super stressful as a parent are like oh my gosh, I’m depending on this food mountain Am I the candidate practicing at home helping your child understand the situation and helping them find another safe food is gonna be really key. They’re probably not going to easily transition into almond butter or sunflower seed butter or swing up butter. But you can begin to expose them to those foods really safely. You can just start putting it out. You can taste it in front of them. You can do a taste test. Oh, this is peanut butter. This is almond butter. This is tahini. This is whatever it is. You don’t have to make them do it. But just put that out there as an activity and see if they will be willing to explore if your child really only has one safe lunch food. My guess is they’re probably not going to eat that meal. You can kind of say Okay, would you eat the lunch the bread with just the jelly? Is that something that would be okay for you? What if I sent it like toast like a toast and I put the jelly and I would you eat that, seeing if you can find anything at all they’ll eat that they kind of agree to like, Okay, I can’t have my sandwich, but I will eat the chips on the side. I mean, at the point that you have a child who’s only eating one meal, you really have to just say, Okay, I’m gonna put, put whatever balanced options I have in my mind. on hold, I’m going to try to help my child feel safe at lunchtime, so they have something to eat, come to a compromise with your child, the only thing I recommend against, it’s like, don’t just send in like a stack of say Oreos or something, your child’s gonna have a really hard time learning if that’s all they see, if you can find something that’s that’s got a little more unfinished. Maybe you make your own cookies, or something that has some, some nut butter or something like that in there. But when we kind of say, okay, my child isn’t going to eat a standard lunch, but I can make these sunflower seed chocolate cookies that they will eat, I’m just going to send cookies for lunch. I think it’s okay to find ways to meet your child where they’re at.

Jess 41:08
So how do you deal with judgment? You know, some Sometimes schools have very strict rules on sending like complete imbalanced lunches to school. If your child is a picky eater, sometimes your lunch that you send may not look ballots, because you know, it’s part of a battle that they don’t know about, you know, to try to get them to eat. So how do you miss? How do you cope with that type of situation? What do you necessarily tell like the administrators or anybody who may have an issue with what you’re sending?

Unknown Speaker 41:37
Yeah, I think being really frank with them and saying, Look, this is our situation, our child will need five foods. And this is one of them. So this is what we’re sending and why. If they push back, you can even go to your pediatrician. And you can say, hey, I’m in the situation, they’re forcing my child to do this thing. Hopefully, you have a pediatrician who’s kind of helpful, you could even write a letter ahead of time, that says, you know, this is the situation. And this is what I, you’re essentially asking for an accommodation for your child based on their thing and see if your pediatrician will sign it. This sort of thing, I think it’s one of those things where we have to stick up for a kid sometimes. And I had a situation with my son recently, where, you know, there was something that everybody else at the camp was doing, that made him really uncomfortable. And I thought, oh, my gosh, nobody is even going to understand why this is a problem for him. And I even said to him, I was like, You do understand, like, most people are gonna look at this, and they’re gonna be like, that’s not a big deal. And he looked at me, and he said, it’s a big deal to me. And I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go to bat for you. Sometimes we have to go to bat for our kids. And we have to say, All right, I’m gonna look dumb here, people are gonna think I’m a soft parent, or I’m a, you know, whatever, I don’t even know, they’re gonna think all sorts of things about me. But I’m the only one who truly understands my child. And I’m going to push and help to do that. And that, so I sent a text. I was like, here’s the situation, I want him to be able to do XYZ. And if you need a signature from the provider, I will get that. And the person was like, Okay, we’ll give him a pass. Right? And so I think sometimes it’s same look, if you need a signature from the pediatrician and from whoever it is, I will get that for you. But this is a real thing.

Jess 43:42
Yes. Well, it has been wonderful having you on the show. Um, besides just dealing with picky eaters, I helping parents with picky eaters. What are some other kind of values or issues that kids eat in color stands behind,

Unknown Speaker 43:56
we are really big on helping all families get food. Like I said, we have this low cost meal plan. Of course, people can purchase it, but we provide it for you. We’ve provided it free to hundreds of 1000s of WIC participants and any families that come to us looking for something to help them stretch their food dollars. And also just really big on not yucking on somebody else’s yum.

Jess 44:22
Yes. I’m a firm believer of it. Yes,

Unknown Speaker 44:25
not somebody else’s. We know that attacking other people’s foods for quote, health, people are so obsessed in diet culture with what’s healthy and what’s not. We don’t even realize how far down that goes. How far down that goes into racism, like Oh, rice has arsenic in it. Well, in Japan, they’ve they’ve reviewed the exact same research and they’ve determined it is perfectly safe to eat rice. It’s perfectly safe. It’s okay to feed it your kids in the United States are like oh my gosh, it’s It’s rice, it has arsenic. Nevermind that classics over here like milk and apple juice and sweet potatoes and things were on the ground also of arsenic. We’re going to pick on rice. Because honestly, rice is not the dominant culture food, right? So it’s easy to be like, Oh, well, that’s bad. Or fried chicken, right? Like, oh, fried chicken is so bad for people. It’s not healthy. Well, where did that idea come from? I’m telling you fried chicken is just fine. It’s, it’s not fried chicken. But, but like, this was a strong cultural food to the black community. And the dominant culture just kind of picked on it say, oh, that’s bad. When we pick on a food, we are often using the food as a proxy for picking on a different group of people. And it’s got to stop, it’s got to stop. Like, we cannot shame people for their cultural foods, we cannot shame people for their, quote, junk foods for their whatever foods are available in their community. It’s, it’s just all gotta stop. Gotta stop. And we’re really big on giving every family the space and the dignity to serve their families, the foods that are right for their family, even if they’ve, you know, been kind of dumped on by the, by the broader culture, some sort of like, I don’t know, like Instagram, feeding often is like this, oh, you can feed your child this perfect diet is a diet than, you know, .001% of the world could attain, right. And yet that’s held up as some sort of standard. And I think it’s really disenfranchising to all families.

Jess 46:46
So if a parent wants to or caregiver or just anybody who’s interested in kids eat in color wants to find out more about it, maybe join a picky eating course. Or to find you on social media. Where would they do that?

Unknown Speaker 46:59
Kids eat in color, you can type that into the search bar. Our website is a resource center for babies, toddlers and kids, just an amazing free resource for parents. And of course, social media is it’s fun. It’s interesting, daily tips. And, and it’s a community community parents who are who are working on the same thing.

Jess 47:20
Yes. And finally, if you have two sentences that you give to a parent or caregiver or picky eater who’s struggling right now, what would it be

Unknown Speaker 47:30
Your success as a parent does not depend on what your child eats. What you’re doing right now is good, and it’s what’s best for your family.

Jess 47:41
That is a wonderful way to close. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for being on the show today. I really appreciate it. You all check her out. If you have a family member, anybody who’s dealing with picky eating, I’ve been just and you’ve been listening to the flaky free podcast treat this episode, like gossip or the gospel and tell someone about it. Eat something delicious this week and you can always share it with me. I’m the flaky foodie on all social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a tiny little bit on TikTok. Thanks, everybody.

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