How to Prevent Nutritional Deficiencies from Picky Eating

Jillian Ondreyka, MPH, RDN, IFNCP, IBCLC

 

My child only eats certain foods. They hate vegetables and I’m lucky if I can get a strawberry in. What can I do to help them not be nutrient deficient?

We know that picky eaters can have some nutrient deficiencies, particularly in Vitamin C, E, folate, and fiber. Some are also at risk for iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies. Whether this leads to any weight or growth differences is still unclear. There also isn’t data on how common it is for kids to truly get nutrient deficient from picky eating. However, if you are worried about your picky eaters nutritional status, here are a few easy steps you can do to make sure your child is eating what they need.

Step 1: Use the food groups! (Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Grains and Dairy)

When planning meals, try to choose 3-4 food groups for every meal and snack. It’s a good idea to include a protein food. Protein is often called the “building-block” nutrient, which makes it perfect for your growing child! Protein foods include meat (beef, pork), poultry (chicken, turkey) beans, peas, nuts and nut butters, seeds, fish, and eggs. Protein is often called the “building-block” nutrient, which makes it perfect for your growing child! If your child only ate proteins for breakfast, try to serve more grains for lunch. 

Step 2: Color your plate!

 Make it a point to include several colors on your child’s plate. Try a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. You get different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from different colors. So, try to eat the rainbow and choose foods that are white, red, purple/blue, orange/yellow, and green.

Step 3: Get Creative!

Kids may be more willing to eat their food if it is fun. Get creative and try to make a design such as a rainbow, flower, or smiley face made from colorful fruits and vegetables on their plate.

 

Step 4: Be patient, try not to get discouraged, and try not to pressure.

Try not to get discouraged if your child doesn’t like a food the first time they see it. Research shows that your child might need to taste new foods a dozen or more times before they can decide if he/she likes or dislikes the food. You can also try cooking the food a different way or seasoned with different herbs and spices. For example, you child might not like raw carrots but might love them cooked. It is also okay if your child doesn’t like Brussels sprouts (or any other one food)! If you have tried the above tips and they don’t want anything to do with Brussels sprouts then that’s okay, at least they were introduced to the food in different ways. HOW your child eats is more important than WHAT they eat, and changing behaviors around food will help the most in the long run. 

 

Step 5: Talk to your pediatrician about a multivitamin

One small study suggested that nutritional counseling (like what you can get with Foublie coaches!) PLUS a nutritional supplement could actually help with catchup growth if in underweight picky eaters. If your child is avoiding most fruits and vegetables you might want to talk to your pediatrician about a multivitamin. A Foublie coach can help you determine if you should be worried about your child’s diet. Sometimes adding a multivitamin can help you feel confident that your child is at least getting the vitamins and minerals that they need. This can help relieve some of the anxiety of them not eating enough!

 

Up Next: You provide, your child decides (the basics of Division of Responsibility in Feeding)