It’s dinner time and you are sitting across from a picky child that is refusing to take even one bite. Dinner can definitely be a frustrating time for the whole family when a child refuses to eat. If you’re a parent, sometimes you know how difficult it can be to get your child to eat a variety of foods. Often times kids can get fixated on a few favorite foods and refuse to eat anything else. What are some ways you can help make sure your picky eater is getting enough nutrition? What can you do to help?
Nutrition Facts For Kids to Help Picky Eaters
Just like adults, children need balanced diets that include all the food groups: protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Each of these food groups provides specific nutrients that help children grow and thrive.
The Mayo Clinic has a quick guide for how much of each type of food a child needs at each age group. It is important to familiarize yourself with these nutrition facts for kids to help you make sure your child is getting enough of each nutrient.
As you can see, protein is listed first. It’s not that protein is the only nutrient that matters in a child’s diet, but it is one of the most important for growth. Protein is needed to build new tissues, muscles and cells.
Protein can be one of those food groups that some kids absolutely refuse to eat. However, as a parent, you know the importance of providing your child with high quality sources of protein to help them grow.
Protein Quality for Kids
Protein is protein…right? Short answer: no. To support optimal growth, the quality and source of protein really does matter. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and whether or not they contain all nine essential amino acids, makes them either a complete or incomplete protein.
Plant based sources of protein such as grains, nuts, beans, seeds, peas and corn are incomplete proteins. They do not have all the essential amino acids. Animal based proteins such as milk, meat, fish and poultry are examples of complete proteins. These sources are also considered highly digestible and higher quality than plant sources. It is important that children eat a variety of protein sources to meet all their nutrition needs. So how much protein does a child need?
Protein Needs for Children
Protein needs change as a child grows. For most children between 10-30% of calories should come from protein. There are specific daily protein needs set for children, but these should be seen as minimum requirements to maintain health and muscle mass. The current recommended amount for protein based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is:
Ages 1-3: 13 grams
Ages 4-8: 19 grams
Ages 9-13: 34 grams
Female 14-18: 46 grams
Male: 14-18: 52 grams
For most children who eat a varied diet, it should not be difficult to meet these needs, but for a picky eater this may be more challenging.
Tips for Parents with Picky Eaters…
Here are a few tips to get your child to eat a more balanced diet, including getting enough protein.
For our family, we started right from the beginning having our children taste and explore all of the various foods we were eating. We have one really good eater who is willing to try anything — and most of the time loves it! Our other little eater would rather be on the go and finds mealtime a bit of a drag, but nonetheless, is still willing to try a variety of foods.
● Introduce new foods to your child. As soon as they are able to eat table food, let them try everything you are eating! If you yourself are a picky eater make a conscious choice to discover new foods with your child – and by all means DON’T verbalize your dislike of a certain food in front of them. Nothing will turn off a child faster to a particular food than hearing a parent complain about it first!
● Don’t make them clean their plate! Put a variety of foods on your child’s plate for every meal and make a request that they at least try everything. There will inevitably be some foods that your child just doesn’t have a taste for – and that’s OK! We always tell our kids that they can stop eating when their tummy is full, because we want them to listen to their body’s satiation signals…not just clean their plate. Also, it keeps mealtime fun and enjoyable — instead of a stressful power struggle.
● Keep re-introducing foods. If your child shows an aversion to a particular food, re-introduce it at a later time and/or prepared a different way. If they still don’t care for it, no big deal. If they like it…praise them like crazy! Their tastes will grow and change as they get older and they may discover two years down the road that they actually do like asparagus!
● Get your kids in the kitchen. Let them help you prepare a meal! It gets them excited about cooking and you’ll also find that they are more willing to eat what they helped prepare. Choose an easy meal (where measurements don’t have to be exact) for those nights, and make it fun for them. Enjoy the time bonding with your child and forget about the mess that is being left in your wake!
Protein Shakes for Picky Eaters
Protein shakes are a great option for picky eaters. Here are some ideas on how to improve your picky eaters nutrition by using a healthy protein supplement.
Whey protein can be a great tool for families with picky eaters. It is a highly digestible and fast acting protein that can help fulfill your child’s protein requirements. However, not all whey proteins are created equal. You want to choose a whey protein concentrate like our Vital Whey, which does not contain any artificial sweeteners or colors. It comes from cows that are grass-fed that are never treated with artificial hormones and are non-GMO.
A Vital Whey protein shake also makes a great between-meal snack for kids. Because it’s packed with high quality protein, it is very satiating and keeps them full during busy days or when they come home with after school munchies.
Even better, since it is powdered, you can mix Vital Whey into those tried and true favorites even the pickiest child loves. Try mixing our Vital Whey Natural into your child’s favorite yogurt, pudding or even applesauce. Since it has no added flavors or sweeteners, it hides in plain sight, boosting your kid’s protein intake all from within their favorite snacks.
You can be confident that you are giving your children the best with Well Wisdom products, and the great part is…kids love it!
In dealing with a picky eater, it is important to be consistent with offering healthy food choices, but also flexible enough to provide choices that they like. Protein supplements can be a great addition to any child’s diet to make sure they are getting the protein they need.