Is Your Child a Picky Eater?
When a diagnosis suddenly makes ingredients off-limits, how do you expand the menu? What works—and what doesn’t?
Kids are often fussy eaters to begin with and removing favorite items and treats (What? No more Lucky Charms?) only compounds the problem. How can parents put the “special” into a special diet?
Reader Sharon Wanunu faced a feeding dilemma when her little girl was diagnosed with celiac disease and lactose tolerance. One way that Sharon tackled the problem was by starting a local playgroup for children with food allergies. Welcome to Food for Me, an allergy-friendly playgroup in the Philadelphia area. As part of playgroup activities, Sharon and the other moms actually encourage the children to, yes, play with their food. Here’s how Sharon describes it:
Food for Me is a safe place where preschoolers with food allergies and their friends can come and play and celebrate food together. No restrictions, no anxiety and best of all no gluten, dairy, eggs or nuts.
For food-sensitive kids, a typical school day can incite feelings of stress, fear and isolation—all because of the foods that they can’t eat. Being the only one not partaking in the birthday cupcakes can take a toll on a child’s self-esteem, not to mention his attitude towards food. But this scenario doesn’t happen at a food-allergy playgroup. Here, every child is made to feel included. We taste and laugh, dip and sing, smear and play. All the children can confidently approach the snack table and try anything they like.
Doing food projects can help encourage a positive association with food, reaffirming what eating should be about—nourishment, enjoyment and a pleasurable experience meant to be shared together.
Here’s a “construction project” for parents, teachers and caregivers to try with the children they love. Scrumptious layers of creamy yogurt, fresh berries and cinnamon-sugar cookies are berrrrry good! Use fancy, plastic fluted champagne or wine glasses for an even more dramatic effect.
Coconut milk yogurt or soy yogurt or cow’s milk yogurt, any flavor
Sliced strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries
Soft, allergy-friendly cookies (we used Trader Joe’s Snickerdoodles)
Clif’s Kid’s twisted fruit, optional
Clear plastic cups and spoons
1. Start with the cookie layer. Crumble one cookie into the bottom of a cup.
2. Spoon a layer of yogurt on top of cookie crumbs.
3. Sprinkle a layer of berries over yogurt.
4. Repeat process until you reach the top of the cup.
5. Use Clif’s kids twisted fruit as a spoon for extra fun.
What do you do to expand your child’s menu? What works—and what doesn’t?
Note: Sharon Wanunu shares more food-is-fun ideas in Living Without’s Grapevine column (Feb/March issue). Click here to read “Eating Games.”