Family Nutrition Guide (Part One): Picky Eaters, Energy Requirements and Kids in Sports Training

When we think of family nutrition, we can’t come to a concept and define it.  We simplify it to make it as simple as “mum + dad + kid” or make it complex as “mum + dad + kids of different ages and activity levels + grandparents + athletes!

It’s not easy to come to something specific.  Every family faces different nutrition problems and questions.  Every family requires a different assessment.

This is the first part of your guide to family nutrition.  This week, we share the top three questions my clients ask frequently.

What do we do with kids who are selective eaters and refuse to try new food?

Picky eaters are one of the most common problems parents face.  If the kid is super healthy, doesn’t get sick often, is full of energy and has no weight issues, they are already getting enough nutrients.  Don’t be stressed out about what they eat or do not eat.


  • Make the food more fun or appealing
  • Involve kids when shopping for food at the market, during cooking in the kitchen, ask them to prepare the table for dinner, and involve them in making decisions about the menu. This makes them responsible for the family’s dinner and inspires them to make healthy choices.
  • Appeal to their scientific mind and explain the benefits of consuming the new food. Educate them on how the body uses nutrients (avoiding illness, aiding in growth are a few examples)
  • Invite another person to dinner to try the new food
  • The family should sit down and eat the same food. Don’t make the kids eat by themselves or fulfil their requests.  Ask them to eat with the family and include their favourite food in every meal.
  • Try healthier variations of your kid’s favourite foods. For example, try zucchini noodles instead of regular noodles or baked sweet potato wedges instead of French fries.
  • Avoid pressuring them to “clear the plate.” Let them eat the amount they want.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule: for every meal, let them eat 80% healthy food and 20% of what they prefer to eat.

Family Nutrition Guide (Part One): Picky Eaters, Energy Requirements and Kids in Sports TrainingAre nutritional and energy requirements for kids and teens higher than adults?

Yes, because of the high demand during their ages.  They study, practice sports, and are growing.  Eating nutrient-dense foods are important to help them reach these requirements.  Avoid calorie-dense foods.

Eat five balanced meals that includes fruits and vegetables, a healthy source of protein (animal or plant-based), whole grains (like brown rice, oats, beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, millet, buckwheat) and healthy fats (like in avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, seeds and nuts).

Family Nutrition Guide (Part One): Picky Eaters, Energy Requirements and Kids in Sports TrainingDo kids and teens who train sports eat differently?

Yes, as they need more food for recovery and energy.  The meals should focus on quality nutrient-dense foods, not quantity.  Examples include whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, plus the protein (animal and plant based) and vegetables.

It’s important to set up a meal schedule that compliments their training and school schedules.  They need snacks before and after training in addition to main meals.  Competitions should be included in this schedule.  The whole family works on the agenda to ensure the best food is available.

Summing Up Family Nutrition

Next up, we’re sharing tips on how families can optimise their nutrition plans as a whole.  We’ll look into what a family of athletes consume, how low glycemic index snacks benefit everyone, the best carbs to feed the entire family and different kinds of fats.  Stay tuned for more tips!

About the Author

marcela prats

Marcela is a Nutritionist and Dietitian, with a specialisation in Sports Nutrition. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition at the University of Costa Rica in 2008, then completed her master’s degree in Human Movement and Integrative Health with emphasis on Athletes and Sports Nutrition in the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica in 2010.  Marcela dedicated the past ten years to Muay Thai and holds the WBC Asia World Championship.

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