My one-year-old is a pretty good eater. He generally likes most things and really loves it when he gets to try something new.
But the other day he kept spitting his food out or just clenching his mouth shut altogether, refusing to eat anything. I was getting very frustrated. I was serving foods he normally loves.
Then when he started sleeping poorly and refusing to nurse I knew something was going on. After some investigating, I realized he’s cutting his two-year molars. #ouch
Knowing why he wasn’t eating changed my whole perspective on the situation.
Instead of getting upset at meal times, I was sympathetic and made sure I offered soft, easy-to-eat foods and nutrient-dense drinks to help him through this tough patch. I was so thankful I didn’t have to guess at what to feed him anymore.
Feed Your Kids Without a Battle
Do you ever feel that way about feeding your kids? Like it’s a guessing game and you need to become a mind reader to know what they will and won’t eat?
Parents reach out to me with concerns like:
My daughter ate carrots every day last week…but today she says they are disgusting. What happened?
My son is adamant that he hates rutabaga…but he loves it in soup. How do I get him to eat them plain?
Often times what kids will and won’t eat seems to change on a daily basis. #somanyripebananas #whoateallthegrapesalready
Not to mention no parent wants to end up with a twenty-year-old living on chicken nuggets and french fries because feeding him as a child got too hard.
What to Feed Your Kids
I’m going to let you in on a secret that will forever change the way you feed your kids.
The problem is not WHAT you are feeding them! The problem is HOW you are feeding them.
Once you understand exactly how your child eats, the what becomes a no-brainer. Plus the what can easily fit into a whole-foods, nutrient-dense diet! Without a battle. And that is a win that every parent wants!
How to Feed Picky Eaters
When it comes to feeding challenges I’m definitely an expert. Over the past eleven years, my kids have given me so much experience with just about every feeding hurdle possible
- oral SPD
- tongue ties
- mouth breathing
- food allergies (dozens!!)
- breastfeeding challenges
- and more!
I have an entire website devoted to helping parents feed kids well because of it, and my husband might contribute to my knowledge base as well, cough, cough…
Take my five-year-old as an example. She has been my hardest child to feed by far (I now know why!).
The other day I made hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. She tried one bite and spit it out, and she still refuses to eat hard-boiled eggs. But she will ask for a fried egg almost every day and happily eat it. It’s not what I’m feeding her – eggs. It’s HOW I’m feeding her that matters.
She is what I call an Intuitive Eater (and what some parents would call a picky eater). She listens to her body so well! It’s a good thing for her health, but can be frustrating as a parent.
It turns out my husband is also an intuitive eater. He spit out his egg that day too! He even asked me if I somehow made them differently. Nope. Not one bit, dear…
We did find the reason. Our hens were just starting to lay eggs, so they were not quite “perfect” yet. The egg whites were sort of thick with noticeable layers.
Both of my Intuitive Eaters just couldn’t handle that texture. The rest of the family ate them without even noticing.
Understanding Your Child’s Eating Style
Over the years of observing my own and kids and helping other parents feed their kids, I’ve noticed that each child has a unique Eating Style.
Does your child need comforting food or quick food? Does your child like meals to be a surprise or to know exactly what’s on the menu? Does your child like soft, easy-to-chew food or really crunchy and chewy food? The Eating Styles guidelines will help you identify the answers to all of these and so much more!
Eating environment is just one factor of a child’s Eating Style. For example, one child might feel much more relaxed eating alone while another child refuses to eat unless someone is with them.
Neither of these is a problem. It’s just how that child functions best.
I’m the kind of person that prefers to eat alone. I can actually take my time, relax, and digest well. So I get up early every morning to eat breakfast in peace by myself. At lunch and dinner, I can feel the tension in my stomach with all the chaos of four busy kids around me.
My husband, on the other hand, hates eating alone. He gets upset if we can’t eat as a family and would much rather eat really early or really late to work around activities if it means we can be together.
Kids have lots of feelings about how they eat, too. They just don’t understand it or how to articulate it — which makes it nearly impossible for you to understand.
Community eating preference is just one small example that led me to discover the four Eating Styles. Understanding how this works gives you the knowledge you need to take the guesswork out of feeding your kids.
What Type of Eater Do You Have?
There are four types of eaters:
- Intuitive Eater: slow, emotional, connected
- Adventurous Eater: happy, animated, curious
- Active Eater: fast, loud, intense
- Analytical Eater: still, structured, bold
Every child has a primary Eating Style and then overlaps a bit with a second style. It’s fascinating to figure out what describes your child(ren) best, and Eating Styles are a powerful tool to help them eat better without feeling like they have to change their personality (AND without power struggles with you)!
For example, the term “picky eater” is used a lot when it comes to feeding kids. I really don’t like that label.
I think all kids are great eaters! We just have to understand how they eat to be able to bring the world of food alive to them.
My goal today is to introduce each Eating Style, and you’ll probably start to see certain pieces strongly in your children. What I won’t have time to do is walk you through the entire process and to use this info to feed your family what fits them best without guessing (and without short order cooking).
When you become a member of my Eating Styles program, you get access to a quick-start guide to help you pinpoint your child’s primary eating style. Then you can dig deeper into that style to learn the ins and outs of feeding.
You might even find the information helpful in other areas of life. I now understand why my Active Eater eight-year-old stuffs his mouth at every meal AND why he’s so intense about everything he does.
What is an Intuitive Eater?
An Intuitive Eater is the true “picky eater.” This is the child that will have a very strong opinion about what they will and won’t eat…and there is no convincing them otherwise.
I like to start with this Eating Style as this is the one most parents really struggle with!
Some of the key characteristics of an Intuitive Eater are:
- Slow eater
- Eating tied to emotions
- Hard time with breakfast/getting going in the morning
- Favorite foods come and go every few days or weeks
A couple tips for feeding an Intuitive Eater are:
- Don’t tie emotions to food. How much/what they eat does not equate to good/bad – remove parent emotions from meals even if they are under-eating
- Do something relaxing/fun before a meal, even a long hug can work!
These are just a couple ways to help feed your slow, emotional, and connected child.
What is an Adventurous Eater?
An Adventurous Eater is bouncy, playful and fun. They like their food the same way!
Some of the key characteristics of an Adventurous Eater are:
- Generally happy and easy-going
- Likes to explore and try new things
- Curious and full of ideas
- Likes food to be fun
A few tips for feeding an Adventurous Eater are:
- Let them stand at the table (instead of sitting) or use a wiggle seat
- Serve food they can play with (assembling, slicing, spreading, dipping, etc.)
- Let older kids make and style food (plating) – This is the kid that will jump on board with an online cooking class whole-heartedly.
These are just a few ways to help feed your happy, animated, curious child.
What is an Active Eater?
An Active Eater is loud, speedy, and likes to take on challenges. That includes eating. They may pile their plates so full of food that they can’t actually eat it all. But they’ll try! Then after dinner, they might sneak into the kitchen for dessert.
Some of the key characteristics of an Active Eater are:
- Very loud
- Eats quickly, with large bites and little chewing
- Needs to be around other people
- Enjoys intensity (flavors, conversations, activities, etc.)
A few tips for feeding an Active Eater are:
- Experiment with spice
- Allow time for exercise/physical activity before and after a meal
- Encourage them to chew thoroughly: practice counting 20 chews before swallowing – make it a game
These are just a few ways to help feed your fast, loud, intense child.
What is an Analytical Eater?
An Analytical Eater is more serious and thrives on routine. They will benefit from eating meals at regular times and knowing what is on the menu before it is served.
Some of the key characteristics of an Analytical Eater are:
- Can easily sit still and focus for long periods of time
- Thrives on structure and routine
- Does not get sick of their favorite foods/likes to eat the same foods over and over
- Relates to others through intellect and logic/thinks before speaking
A few tips for feeding an Analytical Eater are:
- Stick to a routine/eat at the same times each day
- Keep food simple and familiar
- Keep the environment quiet and relaxed for meals; allow them to eat alone if need be/if there is too much chaos
These are just a few ways to help feed your still, structured, bold child.
How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Food
Feeding your kids well is more about the HOW than the WHAT.
It all boils down to mindful observation and understanding your child’s nature. By using the Eating Styles guidelines you’ll become the expert on how to feed YOUR child. Then the food will easily follow.
Whether or not they will eat Brussels sprouts today is not the problem.
Boiled Brussels sprouts might be a no-go for an Active Eater, but he will eat a big pile if they are roasted.
Confetti Brussels sprouts in a salad might work for an Adventurous Eater, while an Intuitive Eater likely won’t even entertain the idea.
Something that simple can make all the difference!
Are you ready to stop playing the mind-reading guessing game? Become an Eating Styles Premium Member to truly understand HOW your child eats. I’ll guide you through the process so you can be the meal time hero!
- Tools for assessing your child’s eating style
- Feeding tips
- Food focus – exactly what types of food each Eating Style prefers
- A big challenge video to overcome obstacles of each Eating Style
- A printable for easy feeding
Become an Eating Style expert HERE.
Want to try it before you buy it? You can access the Intuitive Eater guide for free HERE.