‘My daughter is almost 4 and only eats peanut butter and jelly. I sometimes substitute baby food veggies or fruit for jelly, but I want her to eat a wider variety and make sure she has a healthy diet. What can I do?’
They say peanut butter and jelly is a childhood staple, but this is ridiculous. I have a four year-old too, and I know it can be frustrating to watch your child reject the meal you’ve lovingly prepared. It may be small comfort to know you are not alone; a great many children become picky eaters approximately between ages 2 and 4.
You are doing the right thing by making your daughter’s choice healthier. To maximize the nutritional value of PB&J you can use whole grain bread; peanut butter with added omega-3 oils or another kind of nut butter like almond; and puréed fruit or veggies, sliced bananas, local honey, or dried fruit that you’ve stewed and puréed. By offering variety within her preferred structure is that you will be exposing her to new flavors and textures in a familiar format.
In the meantime, you can work on introducing new foods. I hope some of these ideas work for you.
Respect her choices. Part of pickiness is that children this age are just learning that they have choices and power. Respecting her choices will prevent turning food into a power play, which could become a huge problem down the road. It will also teach her to respect her own body’s hunger and satiety signals and give her the pace to explore at her own pace.
Don’t give up. Young children like what they know, and it if you continue to offer a new food she will likely try it. Eventually. Count on offering the same food at least 10-15 times before she tries it, and several more before she likes it. Let her see you eating the same food, too.
Start with something yummy. Since your daughter is stuck on a single food, reward her when she does break down and try something new. Though she’s probably not old enough to articulate the logical connection between new food and pleasure, the experience can be part of conditioning her — yes, like Pavlov — to let down her guard a little more easily. Remember, we’re working on food curiosity first: healthy can come later.
Let her to help you prepare food. Sometimes kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve helped prepare them. At four, your daughter is old enough to break eggs, stir, add ingredients, set the table, etc.
Grow a garden. There is something magical about watching a plant grow from a sapling to a mature plant, then enjoy its fruit, especially for children. This is the best time of year to start seedlings, or wait a few more months and get plants that are ready to go.
Practice patience. In all likelihood, this is just a phase that will pass.
Best of luck!
Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.
Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.
Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.
If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged throughhttp://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas
Judith is teaching another much-requested Health Cooking Session Sunday, March 17th, and this time, she’s added bread!!!