Fueling athletes with enough energy for their sports can feel challenging... fueling picky eaters can feel downright impossible. I know the struggle- you need eat SOMETHING - you have games all weekend!
I've heard countless frustrations from parents...
they'll only eat 5 foods
it's a texture issue for them
I know a donut isn't the best choice, but it's the only thing they'll eat in the morning
they won't try anything new
I don't want to (or have time to) cook multiple meals
Fortunately, whether you have a picky eater- or you are the picky eater- there are ways to add essential nutrients to picky eater's plates to support their performance, growth, and health.
Try these 5 ideas for feeding picky eaters...
Make it familiar. If food familiarity is important, try food boards. Instead of mixing all of the ingredients together- let them build their own. This allows them the opportunity to choose more of the foods they know they like (rice, chicken, pasta, cheese, pancakes, yogurt, fruit) and allows them the opportunity to introduce a small taste of something new.
Pick a color. "Eating the rainbow" is our food's way of protecting the body from injury and illness. Encourage them to choose a red, green, yellow, orange, blue, and/or purple food they're willing to try. It's less important that they eat broccoli and more important that they find a green food (kiwi, avocado, lettuce, edamame, green beans...) that they will eat. Different colors of familiar foods like carrots (purple or white), potatoes (orange or purple), or peppers (green, red, orange, yellow) can be a great place to start.
Mix it up. Not that we need to "trick" picky eaters, but sometimes we can sneak in nutrients without changing anything familiar. Cook rice in bone broth instead of (or combined with) water for added protein, Mix chickpea pasta (I swear it has the same texture, taste, and cooking time as regular dried) with familiar dried pasta for added protein, iron, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Dip it. Introducing something entirely new? Take the focus off the food and switch it to the dip... "What do you think? Does this taste better in ranch, bbq, ketchup, yogurt, syrup..."
Get them involved. Yes, I know it can take more time, but including kids in the grocery shopping (let me know if you want to know the way I navigated the candy and cereal aisles when my kids were younger!), cooking, and growing food is actually shown to increase their likelihood to try new foods.
Above all else food is neither a reward or punishment. Be patient. It takes- on average- introducing kids to a new food 10 times before they're willing to incorporate it on their plate.
As far as the pre-game donuts... ask me for my athlete requested, insanely delicious sweet potato donut recipe- or check out the Breakfast "Cookie" recipe here.
Worried that your picky eater isn't meeting their nutritional needs for performance, growth, or recovery? Click here with questions or to schedule a call with a certified Rock Performance sports nutritionist specializing in youth and teen athletes.