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How meal planning can help break picky eating habits

Register dietician creates 12-day meal plan

DETROIT – Parents know picky eaters can make mealtime a nightmare and it can be even harder to break the habit.

Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietician, has come up with a way to help -- and it makes cooking easier too.

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“It’s too much and now you throw COVID into people’s lives and parents are thinking, ‘OK, I can’t rely on a hot lunch now and then or every day. I can’t rely on the school or the daycare providing the snacks, I suddenly have to be on the hook for everything,’” Anderson said.

So she started brainstorming ideas and connecting with other parents on social media to come up with a plan.

“I was working two jobs. I had my day job and I had this other thing that I was doing full time. My son was starting a new school and he had I had to start sending two meals and, or two snacks, and one lunch, and I thought, ‘This is too much. I’m literally going to explode here,’” Anderson said. "I cannot do that and continue to work as much as I’m working way too much. And so I decided that I would make a meal plan for myself, to give me a little bit of meals, a little bit of brain space, so that I could think because I just couldn’t do it all.”

That’s how she came up with a way to introduce her son to new foods with a meal plan she calls Real Easy Weekdays.

“It truly is too much to expect parents to be working full time, no childcare, online schooling, part time schooling, whatever the school situation is, and then feeding the kids," Anderson said. "If it feels like too much, I think it is too much.”

It’s set up so you know what to make and serve for every meal for 12 days in a row, then when you’re done, you start back over again with day one.

“It’s based on the idea of repetition," Anderson said. "The more kids see foods repeated, the more they’re likely to eat them. It kind of reduces picky eating behavior.”

The idea of using the number 12 is to keep meals off a normalized schedule.

“It keeps our family from always eating the same thing on Monday and always Tuesday -- people hate that,” Anderson said. “But it’s also the minimum number of meals that you can get really good at and really fast at that they’re not going to get totally sick of it as well. It combines that repetition with you learning and getting speedy at it, and next thing you know your family starts to eat a little better.”

If you have a typical picky eater who likes to stick to eating the same foods over and over, she said her method works especially well for busy parents who struggle with getting their little ones to eat healthier.

“People have actually said that over time their kids have been exposed to a wider variety of fruits and vegetables and foods and, as a result, they’ve learned to eat foods that even the parents thought, ‘I didn’t think my child was going to eat this,’” Anderson said. “But, because I’ve been serving it, it’s it’s helped in that way. So the feedback has been so positive that it’s just been really encouraging and of course I love helping parents in any way because I feel the pain of how hard it is to try to juggle everything.”

More information can be found on Jennifer Anderson’s official website here.


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