Tips for Feeding Kids Who Are Picky Eaters

September 22, 2019

Are your kids going through that “picky eating phase?” They don’t want to try new foods; they might even refuse to eat foods that they once loved; and they tend to drive you crazy each and every time they refuse to eat whatever is put in front of them. Listen in as we give you strategies to deal with your picky eater and help them broaden their eating horizons.

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CASSIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. This show is being brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. As registered dietitians and licensed nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we work with a variety of different children every week; and many of them need special diets. We also work with children who have digestive and intestinal issues; and of course we have a lot of clients who are on the autism spectrum. And oftentimes they have really strong likes and dislikes about food. There might be a food that they won't even go near because of the color or the texture, and then there are some foods that they want to eat every day at every meal. If you haven't recognized my voice yet, I am Cassie Weness. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and I personally have learned a lot about what it takes to shop and cook for kids who have, I guess you could say special diets; because as many of the longtime listeners know, both of my kids have celiac disease and they also both have a dairy sensitivity. And if you're not familiar with celiac disease, in short, that is a genetic autoimmune condition where your body starts attacking itself if you get even just a crumb of gluten. So we're really strict about keeping our bodies and our house 100% gluten-free. And if there's any moms of middle schoolers out there, you know how active that age be, and both of my kids are in sports and they have active social calendars. So you can imagine I am always trying to stay on top of the planning and the cooking of the meals to make sure that their nutrient level is more than enough for their growing bodies.


TERESA: Yes, and we also work with children who are going through that picky eating phase. As a parent of three young children, I know that phase really well. These are kids who don't even want to try foods. They refuse to eat foods that they once loved, and they tend to drive their parents crazy every time they refuse to eat whatever is put in front of them. I am Teresa Wagner. I am also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and happy to tell you that this picky eater stage is usually done by the time kids are about six years old. Well at least hopefully.


CASSIE: I was going to say is that how it is at your house? Usually; we say usually gone by six years old, but not always. And even if the pickiness does subside at six, we parents know that meal time can be a real struggle and pretty darn stressful up until that time. So today we've invited Jill Castle to join us by phone to discuss strategies that she's found to help kids move through the picky eater phase a bit more smoothly. Jill Castle is a Registered Dietitian. She specializes in pediatric nutrition and she's the author of a book titled Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods.


TERESA: Yup. And for the majority of the show, Jill Castle will join us to share her knowledge and expertise about how to help picky eaters broaden their eating horizons. And I love that because I think a lot of times as parents we think we have a pretty good idea of what we should be feeding or at least hopefully we have an idea of what we should be feeding our kids. But sometimes it's that how that's really tricky. And then near the end of the show, our very own Cassie Weness will share her expertise on how to manage feeding kids who are both gluten and dairy sensitive. I'll be asking Cassie to share some of her tips, tricks and recipes.


CASSIE: Yes, and I know this hour is going to go all too fast, but we'll try to squeeze all of that in. Before we get too far into today's topic though, besides picky eaters, we are fully aware that some kids have a condition called Avoidance Restrictive Food Intake Disorder; and this is serious. This can interfere with a child's weight, can interfere with their growth, even their daily functioning. Usually kids with Avoidance Restrictive Food Intake Disorder don't eat enough on a daily basis to meet their nutritional needs. So this is a much more serious eating problem than just being a picky eater. And if you have a child with this disorder, I feel it's really important to get professional help.


TERESA: Because I am a dietitian and a parent of three young children and have many friends with young children, I know that picky eating is common in childhood. Statistics show that 13 to 22% of children between the ages of three and 11 are considered picky eaters. Most young children outgrow their picky eating, but a small percentage hang on to that pickiness into adolescence. And then some people never really get over it.


CASSIE: I know a couple of those adults.


TERESA: So if you're a parent listening and you have a picky eater, or maybe you're a grandparent of a picky eater, I know that you're going to be able to pick up some strategies from Jill Castle; some strategies that she has developed and taught hundreds of parents over the years. Jill is a parent of four children herself, so she was able to try out these strategies on her own family as she developed them. So with that, Jill, I want to welcome you to Dishing Up Nutrition. We are delighted to have you on the show this morning.


 JILL CASTLE: Thank you for having me.


CASSIE: You are welcome. We are going to really make use of our time and pick your brain here today. But first, just to ease us into the topic, we kind of established that having a child who's a picky eater is fairly common. Can you tell us just how common it is in terms of statistics?


JILL CASTLE: Sure. Well, the research is sort of all over the map on, you know, the percentages in the United States. However, about half of two-year-olds are considered picky. 21% of three to four-year-olds, so that older toddler, preschooler age, and about 11% of nine-year-olds. And that number is growing with, with more and more children having learning challenges and behavioral challenges. They're oftentimes associated with sensory challenges around food as well. So that percentage is a percentage that's changing.


TERESA: Yeah. And I would agree with, I mean, and this is not research based, this is just personal experience based. It just seems like that is such a topic of conversations with parents right now is the struggle with food.


JILL CASTLE: Yes. And, and if you look at the data too, parent's perception of picky eating is quite larger, than the actual “picky eater” research.




JILL CASTLE: There's 25% of kids who are actually picky eaters. About 50% of parents believe their children are, are picky eaters.


CASSIE: Okay. I suppose it depends on, right…? Like Teresa and I want to eat Thai food and asparagus spears and yeah, it depends on your perception.


TERESA: Yeah. And you know, you know from my experience when my first child was beginning with solid foods, I just assumed he was going to eat well and eat a variety of foods because that's what I do. And I was just assuming that because that's what I did, that's what he would do too. I wasn't prepared for a picky eater, so I made a ton of mistakes in that process of, you know, introducing foods and my reactions and all of those kinds of things. And eventually I engaged in those picky eating battles, which nobody wins that battle, right Jill?


JILL CASTLE: That's right.


TERESA: And I just experienced a ton and still experience some frustration and that's what I hear from parents is that frustration and that guilt. So Jill, how, you know, maybe for first time parents or the beginning parents, how do you initially deal with a picky eater so that it doesn't develop into a long period of time? That it's just a quick phase?


JILL CASTLE: Yeah, I think, I think for parents who are just starting out, if they can sort of wrap their head around the fact that this is a very typical thing that will set in at around two years of age and to not be surprised about it, but to be prepared for it. Because I, I literally have clients where the parents will talk about how well their babies are eating and they eat everything and then literally the next week they're like, “Oh my goodness, they're eating nothing.” It really can change overnight. And when that happens, I think what parents can, can do to sort of be prepared for that is to realize that around age two neophobia sets in. Neophobia is a scientific word for fear of new food. And it's just a normal developmental thing that happens. And what parents can do about that is to not get dissuaded, but just to keep sticking with their game plan. And parents should have a game plan for feeding their kids. You know, when we're thinking about what we want our children to be when they grow up we think about all different kinds of things related to their education and their intelligence and their social/emotional interactions. We should be thinking about that as well for their eating habits. And in order to, you know, grow a healthy eater, we have to always be exposing them to a variety of different foods, even if they're rejecting them or not interested in them. So from a parenting perspective, just realize that, you know, you still want to offer a variety of different foods. You don't want to react when your child refuses food. You really just want to sort of be like, “Okay, well we're not doing that today. We'll figure, we'll try this another day.” You know, just very upbeat, positive, neutral reaction to any kind of fear of new food, food rejection, food jags. Those are other typical signs. “Food Jag” is when a child wants to eat the same thing over and over and over again. And then a last piece of advice I always tell parents, you know, don't ask your toddler what they want to eat because they're just going to tell you exactly what they know. And our job as parents is to really sort of set that blueprint and a trajectory for food variety. And in doing that we need to, you know, expose our children to a variety of different foods.


TERESA: You know, Jill, I think that that is a great game plan that you talked about. But we have to take a break. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And today we are discussing how to help picky eaters taste, eat and like new foods with author and pediatric nutritionist, Jill Castle. You can learn more about Jill Castle and her books, programs, blog and podcast at




CASSIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you're just joining us, I'm Cassie Weness. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. I'm in studio with my co-host, Teresa Wagner, who's also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And we have a special guest joining us by phone, Jill Castle. And our topic is tips for feeding picky eaters. Before we get back into that topic, just a little bit of housekeeping. I want to let everybody know that coming up in November… Saturday, November 9 we are offering our ever popular Menopause Survival Seminar again. This is a favorite seminar of many women and I know it's because there are a lot of women out there today who are looking for natural ways to manage their sleep problems, to manage their mood swings, to manage their hot flashes; all these things that, lucky us, we get to deal with when menopause comes on. A lot of women also struggle with unwanted weight gain during menopause. At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we like to say take charge of your nutrition to take charge of your life during menopause; or that could just as well be during perimenopause or during post-menopause. So if you have November 9th open, come spend the day with Joann, Diane, and Dar. These ladies say they like to give you some menopause zest. It's really a fun class. They, they laugh but they talk about some serious topics too and really give you great answers to help you feel great again. And if you have any questions or if you know you want to sign up, you can call the office at 651-699-3438 or you can go to our website at And click on nutrition classes and you'll find that Menopause Survival Seminar there and you'll find additional information. Okay, so Jill, you were just talking about a lot of great tactics before we went to break. I loved that you said “don't react”. And I think so many of us, especially with that first child, are prone to reacting. And, and I think you allude to this in your book. You know, a positive reaction can sometimes be just as harmful as that negative reaction, right? We, we don't, we just don't want to be reactive. And, and a thought that I had when I was listening to you just before we went to this commercial break was… I feel like this has worked well at our house anyway. I will serve up the food and I really try hard not to react. And I would also say, well my kids aren't picky eaters per se. They're not super adventurous like my husband and I are either. So meals can sometimes feel a little boring, but I feel like as long as my husband and I are modeling healthy eating with a variety of different vegetables and meats, and I think they'll come along eventually. And in fact, I saw this happen and then I want to turn it over to you and let you comment on this. But my son, who's 13 just this year… well let me back up. So for years I've been serving taco salad at our house. So for my husband and I, that's a bunch of romaine lettuce and some vegetables with the taco meat and sour cream and salsa on the top. My kids, however, sit right next to us and they dish up just the taco meat and the sour cream, and maybe a little salsa. They skip the romaine and the vegetables. Just this year, my 13 year-old asked when I served it up here a month ago, if he could have the romaine and the vegetables. I'm like, in my head thinking, “Yes, you're actually having a salad.” So I feel like if we could just keep modeling it. Do you think most of the time kids will come along eventually?


JILL CASTLE: I do. I do. I believe that. I've seen that in my own children as well. And I think it helps parents to understand too, that combination foods are really hard for kids, especially when they're young. And if you can separate them out like your children naturally did with your taco salad, that they can still get the same foods. They just, some don't like them to be piled on top of each other or to be mixed together or to touch each other. And so it's ok if you deconstruct a taco salad and serve it. In fact, I like to serve what I call a dinner bar approach to foods where… and this is really for older kids, but where they can pick and choose from the meal elements or from the entree elements; and compose their own plate. And I did that a lot with my own children too. But just to, for the listeners, you know, this is a long game. We don't raise healthy eaters overnight. It's an 18-year process. And modeling showing kids what it's like to eat well, what it's like to sleep well, to move your body every day; those are the things kids need to see on a regular daily basis. And they learn those behaviors over time when they do see them. What can happen with parents in relationship to picky eating is that they give up. They give up on vegetables. They give up on complicated meals because their child rejects it. And so, therefore, they think, “I'm not going to waste my time. I'm not going to waste the money.” And in giving up, they just, unfortunately kids lose that opportunity to learn with time. And so that's the other piece of it is don't give up. Just keep on your game plan model. Be adventurous with food yourself. Have nutritious foods and balanced meals show up regularly, day in and day out. And your child literally will figure it out. It may take some kids years. It may take some kids months, but they will figure it out.


TERESA: Yes, I think that that's such good advice and I feel like it's so true to what's going on in my house right now. I'm eating a lot of leftovers because I refuse to give up. I just, I feel like someday, someday I'm going to have the situation that Cassie just talked about.


CASSIE: I like what Jill said. It's a long game.


TERESA: It’s a long game. And it feels really long when you're in it.


JILL CASTLE: Yeah. It does.


TERESA: In your in your book, Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods, you said it's important to understand the difference between tasting and eating food. Your book is called Try New Food, not necessarily “eat new food”. So could you explain a little bit about what you mean there?


JILL CASTLE: Sure. So there are steps to go through before you actually eat a food. Eating the food is consuming it, right? Swallowing it, it goes into your stomach, your digestive system. But tasting is very different. Tasting can be licking. It can be putting food in your mouth and taking it out. It could be kissing a food so you get the flavor on your lips. And even before putting food around or in your mouth and taking it out, the experience, the sensory experience of engaging with food from touching it, to smelling it, to picking it up and feeling it or unwrapping a banana or a clementine. Just that interaction with food really loads the sensory system with a lot of feedback and some children need to have those pre-eating or pre-tasting experiences. Some children are willing to do the tasting piece of it. So licking, chewing it, taking it out; everything before you actually swallow the food. And when you swallow the food that is eating.


TERESA: Yes. And I think one thing I heard, either I heard on one of your podcast or in your book was that we shouldn't be so worried about them getting messy.




TERESA: Like cleaning them up after every bite. And I love if you talk a little bit about the importance of that in just a minute, but we have to take another break.


CASSIE: Those darn commercials.


TERESA: I know. They come so fast. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. This morning we have Jill Castle with us via phone. Jill is a pediatric dietitian and author of Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods. She will be sharing some strategies she has found to successfully turn picky eaters into adventurous eaters.




CASSIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Before we jump back into our topic of tips for feeding a picky eater, I want to talk just for a minute about heart health. And first of all, I'm really happy to say that most of our clients, when they come in for a consult, they've had their cholesterol numbers tested. In fact, I find, or when I was in clinical practice, I found that most people were getting their cholesterol numbers tested yearly, so they knew their total cholesterol, knew their HDL, their LDL; and a lot of people also had that triglyceride number tested. However, and I don't know if you still see this today, Teresa, in clinical practice, most clients don't really know what that triglyceride number means.


TERESA: No, not really.


CASSIE: They might know the number, but they don't know that that number can tell us a lot in terms of cardiovascular risk. For example, somebody with a triglyceride level of 300 would have a higher risk of having a heart attack or a cardiovascular event than somebody with a lower number regardless of what that total cholesterol is. In fact, if we look at statistics, somebody with a triglyceride of 300 has about a 28% higher risk of having a heart attack or some other cardiovascular risk versus somebody with a triglyceride of 100. So if I've piqued your interest at all, if you want to learn more, we have several Weight & Wellness series starting here next month in October. And they're packed with great information about our overall health, but also specifically about our heart health. In the six-week Weight and Wellness series, we spend two hours, so that six weeks series is 12 hours total. But we spend a full two hours focusing on heart health and helping the class participants understand how their cholesterol numbers affect their overall health, what normal cholesterol numbers look like, and how to eat to normalize those numbers if they're a little out of whack. And I think it's a great series for the entire family because the entire family can learn how to manage their cholesterol and just get heart healthy through eating real food. Now if six weeks is too much of a time commitment because of your current schedule, we also have our Weekend Weight & Wellness Seminar. That's coming up here October 11, 12 and 13. Both of these Weight & Wellness series as well as that Menopause Survival Seminar I talked about earlier in the show offer continuing education credits to both nurses and social workers. So that's a little added bonus. If you want to learn more, call the office at (651) 699-3438 or again, you can go to our website: So getting back to our conversation about tips for feeding picky eaters, I thought it was interesting, Jill, listening to you before commercial talk about how tasting is very different than eating. And it reminded me, and for the life of me, I can't remember what I had served that night. But about a year ago, my younger one, whatever she put in her mouth that I had made that night, the look on her face. And she looked at me and it was like, “Mom, I can't”. And I said, okay, go to the garbage and spit that out. As I think back, I was really calm. I'm really proud of myself because she was ready to spit it out on her plate. And I'm like, okay to the garbage, spit it out. You know, and I didn't make a big deal. Again, I can't remember what dish that was. I probably didn't make it again but of the two kids, she certainly is the one that'll have more issues with food, even though I wouldn't necessarily call her picky. But I love that, you know, okay: “taste it”. So she tasted it and I didn't push it and you know, I just, I really feel like she will come around. Another thing, Jill, I'd love to have you comment on. When I was reading your book, you talked about some research in your book in which they discovered that babies between four to six months old are actually more receptive to a variety of different flavors. But after six months they become less receptive to new foods; new flavors. I think you called it the honeymoon phase. Can you talk more about that?


JILL CASTLE: Yeah, so the research tells us that there's a flavor window between four and six months, and it actually can extend up to about 18 months. And basically what that means is that that's the time when babies and young toddlers are very willing and open to trying new flavors and new foods and new textures. And that's why it's so important if listeners out there have infants to start solids right around six months because we want to take advantage of that flavor window. And in that period of time, the goal is really to introduce as many different foods and flavors as we can. And now with the food allergy prevention recommendations we do want to introduce things like fish and eggs and milk products that have been baked into foods. We want to introduce those things all within that first year of life by 12 months partly to prevent food allergies, but also to introduce all these different foods and flavors. That's the honeymoon phase. I call it that because it's a wonderful time of feeding. Babies are very open. They enjoy eating. It's rewarding for parents to feed their babies because they see them enjoying food. And then after 18 months, you know, we start to get into that neophobia: fear of new food. The picky eating stage starts to creep in. And so again, you know, that is, that's what that honeymoon phase is. And again, the goal is to introduce as many foods and flavors, spices, herbs; different textures. The gates are wide open really.


CASSIE: So would you say during that honeymoon phase, especially at the start of it, it's important to not go right to the sweeter foods or not to start with the fruits? Because if they get that sweet flavor, are they going to be less likely to be more open to the more savory flavors?


JILL CASTLE: There's no research that really shows that, but from a practical standpoint, you know, babies are growing in utero, in amniotic fluid, and amniotic fluid is sweet; and if you nurse your baby or you breastfeed your baby, breast milk is sweet and it's fatty. So those taste buds get, are really primed for those flavors. In fact, a lot of people will say that babies are hardwired for sweet and fat. And by six months when we introduce solids, they learn to like salt. The challenge is that, you know, vegetables are bitter and that is not a flavor that, that infants are used to. So they need to learn to like that flavor. And the way they learn is through exposure to those foods; so exposure to vegetables. So yeah, I mean I think when we're talking about introducing solids to infants and going along that progression of solid food, it makes sense to yes, introduce vegetables; meats also because that's a learned, that's a more umami flavor. And umami is also a learned taste. It's not something babies are born with. So exposing infants to those types of foods early on certainly helps them accept those foods later. In fact, we have research that shows babies who eat a lot of vegetables in that first year of life are less picky, and are more likely to like and accept vegetables at like seven years of age.


CASSIE: Oh, interesting. And in your book, you also, another thing I thought was interesting: you mentioned that in the first thousand days or in other words, the first two years of life, the brain and the body are developing like no other time. And we need so many nutrients, especially for proper brain development. Can you talk about at least just a few of the important nutrients for brain development in those babies?


JILL CASTLE: Yes, yes. So we're having so much research come out on brain development right now. I just actually interviewed a brain researcher for my own podcast. And what we know in terms of that first five years of life really, but even the first thousand days, that first two years of life, nutrients like omega-three fatty acids, particularly DHA, is very important in terms of not only just laying down the neurons in the brain, but connecting them. There's an enormous amount of connections that happen in the first five years of life in the brain. So the brain is growing; it's developing; it's learning. And you can see that in everyday life with infants, how quickly they learn and they can mimic. That's all part of brain development. So, things like omega-three fatty acids, DHA, EPA, ALA, choline; these are all very important to brain development. We also know that iron is very important to brain development, and zinc. And one could argue that all the nutrients are very important to brain development and they are, but those are some of the nutrients that we actually have research on. And we know that we need to get or pay more attention to those nutrients in infants. So how does that translate, you know, for parents in the first five years? We want to make sure fish… children are eating fish early on; cooked fish like salmon. It's a fatty fish. It's full of omega-three fatty acids. Eggs are full of choline. And if they’re DHA fortified, that's even better. So really helping parents understand how to translate some of these brain nutrients into real food that they can feed their children. Nuts and seeds also are great additions to the diet. And the only caveat with nuts is to make sure if you're introducing them to your infant or young toddler, they're in a form that the child won't choke on. So that's either kind of pulverized nuts or it's a smooth paste, like a nut butter is a good option. Or even now you can get peanut flour that you can mix in in your baking; or mix into oatmeal. But yeah, we want to be focused on brain nutrition. And then the other thing is bone development. Calcium and vitamin D is are very important to the body bone growth. And the iron and zinc that I mentioned also just, you know, babies after six months of age are kind of on their own for their iron status. They're not, they're not using what was delivered or given to them by their mothers at delivery. So, you know, they need meats. I'm a big proponent of meat as an early food in the infant diet, not only because it's a rich source of iron and zinc, but also it's a flavor that is challenging for toddlers. So exposing babies to it early helps that toddler be more accustomed to that flavor.


TERESA: You know, Jill, you won't get any arguments from us there. We are big fans of that too.


CASSIE: Eat your meal.


TERESA: Eat your meat. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. We have been discussing the book, Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods with author Jill Castle. If you are struggling with a picky eater, we encourage you to pick up the workbook edition of her book. It's such a useful tool. Jill will walk you through her strategies step-by-step as to how you can make your meal time an enjoyable and fun time with your child instead of that frustrating experience you may be encountering. Today's show has been a whirlwind of information, but as I mentioned earlier, you can learn more through Jill's books, programs and her podcast at Next week, join Dar and Marcie as they discuss the happiness diet. So if that sounds interesting to you, you'll have to tune in next Saturday.




CASSIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Before the hour gets away from us Teresa and I really want to thank Jill Castle, author of Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods for joining us this morning and sharing her knowledge and her expertise. I think Teresa would agree, we could listen to you talk for another couple hours, Jill. This is great information.


JILL CASTLE: Thank you.


CASSIE: You're welcome. And I know all three of us being dietitians, we all believe that if you have a child with food sensitivities or if you have a picky eater, it's essential to make sure your child is getting adequate nutrients so they continue to grow and develop as they were meant to. And the long-time listeners of this show know that we are big proponents, whether you're a child or an adult. We're big proponents here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness of always getting the magic number three on your plate when you sit down to eat. So that means quality protein, lots of vegetables and healthy fats. And, and with that, avoid or at least try to really, really limit the processed oils. And I think there's four big offenders. Those would be the soybean oil, the corn oil, the cottonseed oil, and the canola oil. If you find those in an ingredient list, just don't buy that food. Don't even bring it into your house. We know that real food, not processed food is the source of all of the key nutrients for that growing body and growing brain in your young kids. And if you feel you need support to help your picky eater try, taste and eat new foods. Don't be afraid to give our office a call at (651) 699-3438 and inquire about setting up an appointment with a registered dietitian or a licensed nutritionist. We would love to help you with any picky eater in your household, whether it's a kid or a teenager, or maybe even an adult. So let's see. Getting back to some of these tips we were talking about with Jill. Something that, and I was telling Teresa this in the break room before we came on air this morning. I have known probably just from parenting books that I've read over the years not to label my kids. And maybe some parents just know that intuitively, you know, for example, if your kid isn't good at math, you don't want to tell the whole world, “Oh, she's not good at math.” Because if your child hears that they're not even going to try. They're going to say, “Well mom says I'm not good at math.” So why try. Basically you live up to that label and you actually state that in your book, Jill. You said “don't label your child a picky eater” because they will live up to that. They will become one. And honestly, I never thought of that labeling piece in terms of eating, so I thought that was really helpful. Do you want to expand more on that?


JILL CASTLE: Sure. I think you know what's, what's important to know is that, you know, as parents we want to have a growth mindset when it comes to our kids and their ability to eat. And having a growth mindset means that we recognize that our kids are learning and they're evolving. And I think if you can portray that attitude to your child with statements like “I know you'll learn to like these foods someday” or “I know today might not be the day, but I'm confident that you'll figure this out”. “I'm confident you'll become, you know, more adventurous with eating”. If you instill that positivity and that growth mindset in how you interact with your child. I think that that goes a long way for kids. It builds their confidence, it empowers them. And it also can help them, you know, develop a really positive self-esteem. I think it's dangerous when we, when we tell our kids, when we make comments to our children that they're picky eaters or “you're a big girl” or any kind of comments that are personalized to who they are. I think as parents we really have to, to be careful about that. And in our society today, unfortunately it's really easy to put those kind of labels and those kinds of comments on children or even other children or even on ourselves. And we have to be careful because children really are like sponges. They absorb all of this and they internalize it. And that can, you know, obviously not turn out well for some children.


CASSIE: Wow. Great advice.


TERESA: The words we say are so powerful.




TERESA: Well, Jill, we only have a few minutes left, but I really wanted to talk about one of the last recommendations that you have always done with your family and that's having family style meals, and let the children dish up their own food. So can you tell us why you recommend this style of meal delivery, I guess?


JILL CASTLE: Yeah, so several reasons, but I think the biggest driving force is one of the things I've learned over the course of my career and being a mom is that, you know, child nutrition isn't just about getting the right food on the plate. It's also about that feeding interaction. And then the third component is building autonomy in children. So we want our kids to grow up to be healthy eaters, but we also want them to choose healthy food on their own without our encouragement or prodding or, or pushing. And in order to do that, we have to help children become autonomous with food. And family style meals are one way to do that. There are several ways to do it, but this is one and it's one of my favorite ones because essentially it also honors the division of responsibility, which is a term coined by Ellen Sater, where the parent is in charge of what the meal content is, the timing and the place of the meals. And the child really is in charge of whether they're eating what you serve and how much. So a family style meal is basically the parent makes the meal places the different food components in bowls and platters in the middle of the table. And the family, including the children, they pass around these bowls and platters; and each individual picks out what they want to have on their plate and what they want to eat. And it really eliminates a lot of the drama and stress and struggle at dinner time because kids are in charge of themselves. And you know, the, the caveat with it is that parents really need to make sure that they're offering the major five major food groups on the table: fruit, vegetable, whole grains, lean protein and a dairy or non-dairy substitute, whatever the family is using. But that they're there providing that well balanced meal and they're allowing the children to pick and choose from what's on the table. There's no backup meals or snacks afterwards to make up for the child that didn't choose anything. When a parent is planning those family style meals, they want to pick one or two foods they know that most of the people in the family will enjoy and eat. Oftentimes that's a fruit or a glass of milk or a bread or rice or pasta product. But you do want to include at least one or two items that, that people like and enjoy eating.


CASSIE: You know, and I would say I love that Jill. And I would say most meals that is what we do at our house. But I have also maybe incorporated a little bit of Nutritional Weight and Wellness’ philosophy in there too because the kids have to choose at least three things: that being a meat, a healthy carbohydrate, which usually is a vegetable and healthy fat. And then if they want to go back for seconds, and honestly they're not usually hungry enough for seconds. I think that's because we try to eat every three hours to stay ahead of that hunger. But if they want, because this will happen: if I make mashed potatoes, they often want seconds on the mashed potatoes. But the rule is if you're hungry enough for seconds for mashed potatoes, you need to take a little meat with your mashed potatoes; balance that out. So just trying to not allow them to “carbo” load, which our taste buds tend to want to do.


JILL: Yeah. There are variations on family style meal that I will coach families through, particularly if a child is carrying extra weight. And it's not to promote weight loss necessarily, but to promote better balance in their diet. The other trick that I often coach families on is, you know, when you're putting out a plate of meat, make sure you're, you know, cutting the pieces of meat into normal portion sizes: three or four ounces for a child.


TERESA: Jill, that is great advice, and I would love to keep listening to you talk.


CASSIE: And I'm going to listen to some of her podcasts because I want to hear her voice more. And we apologize we didn't get to any of the tips for eating gluten and dairy free, but we're at the end.


TERESA: Have a nice day.


JILL CASTLE: Thanks ladies.


CASSIE: Thanks for listening everyone. Thanks Jill.


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