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I have been a health nut for years, so when I had my first child, the responsibility of sustaining another human being's life was somewhat overwhelming. However, I remember feeling confident that with my knowledge about health, my OT background, and my love for cooking, it would all come together.


I was going to have the "best-eating-child-known-to-man." (Cue the first time parent over-confidence chuckle.)

Truth be told, I did, initially. My son would eat anything I put in front of him. My sister would laugh when we were at the playground and he would sit down for his snack of salmon and sweet potatoes when all the other kids were eating Oreos. (Okay, I went a little overboard, don't judge me!)

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Then my son turned three and refused to eat anything that resembled a vegetable. The more I pushed a certain food, the more he rejected it, and it drove me bonkers.

It has been quite the learning process trying to figure out what works and what doesn't in terms of helping my kids enjoy healthy foods while still respecting their need for autonomy.

I'm sure every mother goes through a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions when it comes to food, especially with the first-born.

I'm happy to say I think I've finally found a good balance of letting go of control and encouraging healthy eating habits through fun and education, not coercion. I can now enjoy mealtime with my family, instead of dreading our nightly food battles.

For the record, I, by no means, have children who eat every vegetable offered to them. In fact, no matter how many times I have cooked broccoli, I know, deep down, both kids wouldn't care if I never cooked it again.

There are, however, a few things that give me peace regarding food:

  • I know (and my kids know) that I am in control of choosing meals, not them.
  • I know I do my best to provide healthy options.
  • My kids know that if they don't eat what is offered at mealtime, they will have to wait until the next meal or snack.
  • I know they will accept new and/or healthy foods on their own terms and this is their own right as an individual who has different preferences than me.

I recently took a wonderful feeding course entitled AEIOU, an Integrative Approach to Pediatric Feeding by Nina Ayd Johanson. I learned so much from this course and it really helped me connect all the dots with my own kids at home and in my OT practice.

After delving a little more deeply into training in the pediatric feeding department, I came to an eye-opening conclusion regarding my son’s eating situation. I realized I had, unknowingly, created an environment of stress in regards to eating/mealtime for my son. The more I worried about what my son ate, the more he refused the foods I presented.

It wasn't until I decided it was time to finally let go of control and be intentional about creating an atmosphere of joy around the dinner table, that my son started eating well again.

I would LOVE to help you ditch the nightly food battles in exchange for a peaceful mealtime routine with your family too! So that is why I decided to put together every facet of information I have learned over the years in my OT practice about how to overcome picky eating.

First, consider that there is a huge difference between typical picky eating behaviors that develop around the age of 2-3 years old and a legitimate eating disorder that severely impacts nutritional intake and requires extensive therapy. I am speaking solely about typical picky eating patterns today.

Find peace just in the fact that picky eating is a normal phase that toddlers go through. A nurturing and accepting caregiver is the key to helping them pass through this phase so that it doesn't snowball into a bigger problem. If what you're currently doing just isn't working, accept the fact that you need to try something new.

So without further ado, here are my top tips to help kids overcome picky eating + enjoy a wider variety of foods:

1. Sit down and have a meal together as a family every weeknight (if possible)

Sitting down with your kids and eating with them as a family as frequently as you can is the most important and often most overlooked contributing factor to overcoming picky eating.

There are hundreds of studies proving the positive correlation between regular family dinners and increased vocabulary, academic performance and even the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and micronutrients in children.

Since kids learn best through modeled behavior, they need to watch you eat and enjoy different foods to learn how to do the same. Through modeling, they learn how to chew and eat different food types and textures and how to use utensils.

A meal together implies everyone has the same meal, no short order chef action. Kids eat the same, healthy and balanced meal as their parents. It’s best to have a sense of shared control over mealtime, meaning some nights you cook adult favorites and other nights you ask for a little input from the kids on what they would like. This way, they know, while you’re in charge of what’s for dinner, they can have a say in it too.

2. Make a mealtime schedule + stick to it

Set designated times for meals and snacks and stick to the plan. This helps regulate kids' appetites and sets a peaceful rhythm in the home around meals.

Kids like to know what to expect.

Be sure to set a time when mealtime is over and the food is gone. This does wonders for kids who take hours on end to eat one serving of peas. Set a timer if you have to (it can be visible to you or both you and the kids) and let them know when the meal will end, the food will also end but don’t hold it over them, just state it as a fact.

A good time for a meal is anywhere from 20-30 minutes. There is no reason a meal should last for hours on end (I have been there!). In many social situations (think school, etc) mealtimes are usually around this amount of time.

3. Exposure to a wide variety of foods is key

Exposure to a large variety of food tastes and textures is crucial for future food acceptance, especially within the first year of life. Think of it this way; if your goal is to have your child eat more foods and be okay with trying new ones, how else do you expect them to get there without providing opportunities to try, see and learn about a larger variety of foods?

Every day, try to expose them to a new food type, vegetable or texture.

For textures, think finely chopped, fork mashed, soft table foods, meltable solids (crackers), crispy foods, mixed textures (more than one food texture mixed together), difficulty chewy foods.

Remember mixed textures (like lasagna or tacos) are overwhelming (this is why toddlers can find an onion in any food imaginable) Try deconstructing these types of meals.

For flavors, think spicy, sweet, bland, savory, sour, creamy, etc.spices too

To increase acceptance of more foods, you need to consider ALL sensory components of foods presented.

First, think of sight, does the food look presentable? If not, how can you make it visually more appealing? (i.e. cheese atop taco meat, noodles atop of soup)

Then think of the touch/tactile component, does the food have a new texture and is your child okay with touching it? If they won't even touch and explore it with their hands, they probably won't put it in their mouth.

Next, think of the smell, does it smell appetizing? Don't be afraid of the spice! Kids can have fun exploring with their sense of smell just by opening up the spice cabinet. The olfactory system (smell) is strongly linked to gustation (taste). This means if a child enjoys the way something smells, they are more likely to try a bite. Hold their hand in this process by helping them determine their scent preferences.

Finally, if your child has accepted all the other food sensory components up to this point, they are now more likely to be ready to taste it!

It can take around 15 trials of a new food for a toddler to accept it. Most parents assume their child doesn’t like a certain food because they rejected it the first or second time and subsequently don't present that food to their child again. Instead, keep presenting the food and wait patiently for when they’re ready to accept it.

Remember, even if your child doesn’t actually try a bite or the food presented, just interacting with it (by sight, touch, or smell) is still increasing their exposure to the food type. Maybe a few more exposures and they might take a bite!

4. Create an atmosphere of joy around the table

Be deliberate about making mealtime a fun and positive experience. Mealtime can be stressful and overwhelming for some children, especially when they spy something completely new on their plate.

Feeling overwhelmed or stressed when you sit down to eat? Take a deep breath and smile! Then just enjoy your kids and your meal. Take this time to connect and talk to your family. It will help everyone feel more relaxed and calm and maybe mealtime will even be something to look forward to with your child!

Remember to turn off all electronics so you can make eye contact with each other and focus on conversation as a family.

Here are some fun and playful mealtime icebreakers!

  • Painting with purees: Grab some baby foods and let kids paint with them on any surface (high chair topper, paper plates, etc) This will increase their tolerance to mushy textures and they might try a few bites and expose themselves to new vegetable tastes.
  • Talking about the colors on the plate: "It's important to eat ALL the colors of the rainbow to make our bodies strong. What colors of the rainbow are on our plate today?"
  • Asking: On a scale of 0-10 how everyone’s day was (take turns)
  • Food math + counting: “How many carrots are on your plate?” “Who has the most peas?”
  • Using a dip tray: Dips are great for encouraging vegetable consumption and they are a fun, modeled behavior you can do as a family. (Dip crackers or apple slices into peanut/almond butter, dip carrots into ranch, celery into hummus)
  • Use training chopsticks for kids
  • Use bento forks for trying new foods
  • Singing a silly song or saying a short blessing together as a family. This is simple and easy fun, and kids really enjoy taking part. Here is the one my son says at school and we also uses at home, it's so cute! "Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you Lord for EVERYTHING!"
  • My personal favorite is truthfully teaching them about the food that they are eating. Tell them where it comes from and what it does for the body (I.e. “Carrots make your eyes super strong, Salmon comes from a fish in the sea and it makes your brain grow, etc”)

5. Describe whats on the plate: texture + color + size + flavor + size + temperature

Food descriptors can work wonders for kids who have difficulty trying new foods. Instead of thinking “She doesn’t like sweet potatoes,” think of how she may just be nervous to try it because she doesn’t know what to expect.

Children like things to be predictable and often the unknown becomes scary and can cause anxiety. Maybe the last time she tried sweet potatoes, it surprised her how smushy they were.

Instead of, “These are so yummy!” Be more descriptive. You can say, “These sweet potatoes are orange like the sun! Did you know you don’t have to chew them very much because they are so mushy? Watch how I eat them. Oh, I can taste the butter too!” Or instead of “I love carrots!” say, “This carrot is so crunchy! Watch how I make a super loud crunchy sound when I eat it!”

6. Get your kids involved in cooking + meal prep

Being involved in the cooking and food preparation helps to prepare them for the meal to come and eliminate the element of surprise. They can be the ones to help you chop and mix the bananas into their yogurt instead of being surprised at the chunk in their mouth when they were expecting a smooth texture

Cooking with kids can be challenging, but it also can be a lot of fun. They feel more in control which is so important (remember the idea of shared control). They are also more willing to try new things if they helped assemble it. My son tried hemp hearts (aka sprinkles) on his peanut butter toast because he helped me sprinkle them on.

Letting them get their hands on the foods prior to eating them will increase their chances of putting it in their mouth also because now they have experienced the texture of that food.

So take a deep breath, embrace the mishaps and the mess and try to break everything down into very simple steps.

7. Offer three or four choices + always include one safe choice

Anywhere from 3-4 choices is the perfect combination of allowing room for exploration of new foods and textures and allowing more choices to help balance the meal, regardless of the choices your child chooses to eat.

Having a safe choice or preferred food on the plate can help to alleviate tension over new foods and help your child feel safe and excited about mealtime. Think of it as “bait on the plate.” If you made a vegetable soup, maybe you sprinkle a few favorite noodles on top so visually that’s the first thing they see.

Another type of food bait, especially for vegetables, can be spreads, sauces or dips. I personally don’t like eating a dry sweet potato so I don’t expect my kids to either. Veggies roasted in olive oil, butter atop of potatoes, cream cheese atop of cucumbers or a side of dipping ranch with carrots are perfect examples.

8. Remove the words "eat it" or "try some" from your dinner vocabulary

Children instinctively resist persuasion and reducing coercion will help reduce the child's anxiety.

I’m sure you can recall an event where you tried to make your child eat something and the more you tried to “pitch” or “sell” the food, the more they resisted. My son refused to eat pizza for about three years because of this and then finally decided on his own terms to try it.

So offer the foods, enjoy your plate, and move on, mama!

9. Have a safe bowl handy

Make trying new foods safe and give them an out if they don’t like it. Children are more willing to try something if they know they can spit it out. Using a bowl next to their plate where they can choose to remove items they tried and don't like is helpful because it gives them some control over the situation

Here is how to use one.

Simply keep a small plate or bowl next to your child's dinner plate. Encourage by example when trying a new food and if they touch it and don't like how it feels or taste it and don't like how it tastes, they can spit it out or place it on the safe bowl.

10. Allow total autonomy (but offer help if they need or request)

Being an occupational therapist, my goal is to teach children skills for successful independence, so I have my own personal qualms with spoon feeding. Again, we are back to the control issue. Children (and all humans really) like to feel in control, especially when it comes to things that are coming directly into their mouths.

There are, however, certain types of foods that require a little more help. Or sometimes your toddler or baby simply wants or requests help, and that’s okay too. But for the most part, allow your child to feed themselves so they can feel in control of the eating experience.

So, let yourself off the hook for this one (except the mess, unfortunately) and let your child explore textures and food tastes on their own. They might even develop some new utensil skills along the way.

11. Accept where your child is on this journey to food acceptance + move on

This is by far the hardest for most parents, myself included.

Do your best to accept your child for where they are along their journey to enjoy a wider variety of foods. You cannot force them to be anywhere along this journey that they are not. Fortunately, though, you can be the single most important contributing factor to helping them move forward on this journey of food enjoyment and exploration.

So that's it, mamas! My hope for you is that using these silly simple steps, you can start enjoying mealtime with your children again (and hopefully your kids will learn to eat new and healthy foods along the way too!)

Originally posted on Helping Hands Occupational Therapy.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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