The Registered Dietitian vs. the Picky Eater.

by Risa Green



It turns out that I’ve been approaching this food thing all wrong. Which is not such a great surprise, given that I’ve gotten nowhere with it for the last seven years. Yet still surprising to me, nonetheless, if only because I already knew exactly what to do, and do it all the time, for myself. I just hadn’t thought to apply it to my kids.


Anyway, let me start at the beginning. The nutritionist – actually, the Registered Dietitian (my cousin informed me that there is a difference; an R.D. has a degree, a nutritionist does not) – came to my house and started by askng me what my daughter eats in each category of the food pyramid. I rattled off dozens of carbohydrates, three vegetables, two kinds of cheeses plus scrambled eggs, ten different fruits, protein in the form of chicken tenders, hotdogs and hamburgers, and a partridge in a pear tree. Except that she doesn’t really like pears (or partridges, I’m guessing, though I’ve never actually tried to serve her one). I then ran down a typical food day: breakfast (Life cereal with skim milk), lunch (pasta with butter, fruit and string cheese), afternoon snack (Pirate’s Booty), after school snack (more Pirate’s Booty, plus another piece of string cheese), dinner (oh, God, dinner. More pasta with butter, fruit, maybe a glass of milk), and dessert (whatever crap is in my freezer).


We talked about healthier options, like using olive oil on the pasta instead of butter, serving some strawberries or a glass of juice with breakfast, and substituting yogurt for the cheese sometimes. But the big aha! moment for me really had to do with the way that I think about dinner. For me, dinner has taken on a holy kind of quality, where we’re all supposed to sit around the table at exactly six o’clock and eat a well-balanced, dinner-ish kind of meal, like chicken, fish or steak with a vegetable, and maybe a small side of rice or pasta. And, most importantly, we’re all supposed to eat the same thing. This, I learned, is a pipe dream. Maybe not for everyone, but with the way my daughter eats, it is for me. And the sooner I get over it, the sooner I will be able to relax and chill out and actually enjoy having dinner with my family.


What this means is that, instead of thinking about the day as consisting of three meals and bunch of snacks, I should instead think of the day as a series of small meals. Of course, like I said before, I already knew this. I’ve read enough issues of Self Magazine and watched enough episodes of Oprah to know that eating five or six small meals a day is a much healthier way to eat, but for some reason, I just never thought about it as being relevant for children. But it makes such perfect sense. Instead of feeding my kids empty, air-puffed calories in the form of Pirate’s booty every time they’re hungry, I should be giving them a small meal that consists of lean protein, fruit and/or veggies and whole grains. It could be a fruit smoothie with yogurt and a few wheat thins, or half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk, or a pizza bagel with a side of carrots. But the point is to make each meal count.


What a good idea the smiley face thing. I can see the appeal to a child.
I'm so happy you're making progress with your daughter.


Oh I am so screwed if kids end up eating like their parents, I have a hard time finding a meal both my husband and I will eat. I do like the smiley face idea.


You've inspired me, Risa! Having to prep all those mini meals sounds time consuming, but I'm willing to try it for my very picky daughter. Had to laugh, too, at your comment that you and you husband are both picky. I can rival any 3 year old in pickiness! And my poor husband is allergic to 28 different foods. Our mealtime variety is limited, to say the least! But I'm now inspired to start adding to our rotationt! Thank you!