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Every day when Devin came home from school, his older sister gave him an afternoon snack. Every single day, it was the same thing: peanuts and a cheese stick. Devin was a picky eater, and this was the only snack he would eat after school. His sister was fed up with his picky eating. She thought he was being spoiled. One afternoon, she decided to put almonds instead of peanuts on his plate alongside the cheese stick.
“These aren’t peanuts!” Devin shouted.
“Sure they are. They’re just a different shape! Don’t be so spoiled, eat them!” his sister yelled back.
Devin took a bite and immediately spat them out. “These are different! They don’t taste the same. They don’t look the same. They don’t feel the same in my mouth!” He had a fit and didn’t eat any of his snack that day. Picky eaters can tell instantly when their safe foods are suddenly changed.
If there is one thing we know for sure, it’s that feeding kids is not always simple. We want to help you prevent these stressful food battles. Reversing picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you through the ride! Here’s our guide to help you teach your kids to eat almonds. You’ll find out:
- How to serve almonds to picky eaters
- The benefits of almonds for picky eaters
- How to talk about almonds to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what almonds do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with almonds
Note: Almonds are safe for ages 4+. Before age 4, serve crushed to prevent choking.
How to Serve Almonds to Picky Eaters:
The biggest tip that we can give you when serving any food to a picky kid (or any kid!) is not to pressure them into eating. Take Devin’s snack situation as an example. His sister thought he was being spoiled and tried to trick him into eating the almond by saying it was a funny-shaped peanut.
There are many subtle ways that a child can feel pressured to eat. Here are a few examples:
“You like this. You have had it before, you should be eating it.”
“If you don’t eat this your body won’t grow.”
“Try one bite of everything on the plate and then you may leave the table.”
Removing or reducing pressure at mealtimes can be a great way to help your child learn to like a new food at their own pace.
Choking prevention tip: When serving nuts, use the following age-appropriate guidelines.
- Under age 1: Serve the almonds ground.
- Age 2: Serve the almonds smashed.
- Age 3: Serve the almonds in slivered pieces.
- Ages 4+: Most kids are fine to eat unmodified almonds at or after age 4.
The Benefits of Almonds for Kids
Almonds are a type of nut with a lot of different health benefits. Among the many nutrients that they offer, fiber is at the top of the list. Fiber is important for children as it aids in moving stool through the intestines by making it softer. In addition, insoluble fiber helps the stool pick up bacteria or buildup located within the intestines on its way out of the body. Almonds are an excellent option for kids who have a hard time going to the bathroom.
In addition to fiber, almonds offer up a fast and easy source of protein, which helps to give your little one energy and promotes bone and muscle growth.
It is clear why Devin’s sister chose the almonds to replace his beloved peanuts at snack time. She just needed to work on her delivery! Stick with us to hear what she could have chosen to say instead.
How to Talk About Almonds to Help Your Child Try Them
Picky children are often drawn to negative language about food. “This looks gross!” “No way I am eating that!” The negative talk reinforces their pickiness. It makes it harder for them to learn to try a new food because it is always associated with negativity.
Here is what you can do to promote neutrality when speaking about almonds. Help your child adopt these new words by modeling the same behavior you are trying to promote. Do this by using a variety of neutral words when speaking about almonds to picky eaters. These words won’t be positive or negative.
When you decide to use a positive word, a picky eater may think you are trying to trick them into eating unfamiliar food. If you use negative terms, your child definitely won’t want to eat it. Neutral words will help your child understand that they could learn to tolerate this food in the future.
Talking about food in a neutral way probably won’t make your child try almonds right away. But it is an important part of our strategy to help your child learn to include almonds in their diet.
Here are some words you can use to describe almonds to your selective eater:
- Small flavor
- Light smell
When Devin mentioned to his sister that the “peanuts” looked different, she could have said, “These are almonds. They are brown and have a light flavor that is similar to peanuts.” This keeps almonds neutral and uses language Devin can relate to.
How to Help Kids Understand What Almonds Do in Their Bodies
How we talk about food with children (picky eaters or not!) can make it harder or easier for them to try new foods. For example, if you say, “This food is good for you,” your child may decide they don’t want to eat it before they even try it, simply because you said it was good for them.
It would be really tough to convince a picky eater like Devin that he MUST eat almonds. Instead, you can try to talk about what foods do in your child’s body when they eat them.
It’s important to share information that a child can easily understand. You also want to help your picky eater make the connection that food does many things inside of their body.
Will this instantly make your picky eater want to try something new? Maybe, but it’s not likely. This is just one step of the process.
Here are some messages for almonds. You can come up with your own as well!
Age 0-3: Almonds help you poop.
Age 3-5: Almonds have fiber, which helps you poop.
Age 6-11: Almonds have fiber, which helps poop, or stool, move through your intestines faster.
Age 12-18: The fiber in almonds works to remove bacteria and other buildup in your intestines, which helps keep your colon healthy.
Devin’s sister may have chosen to serve the almonds and say, “Almonds have fiber, which helps keep my colon working properly.”
Almond Food Activity
Food play activities help kids learn to try new foods. When kids look at, touch, smell, and eventually taste a new food, they may also be learning to like it.
Another benefit of food activities is to desensitize the body’s sensory system to these new foods. When a sense is new to the brain, the brain may automatically perceive it as a danger and may trigger the fight or flight system. Food activities can help decrease this “danger factor” and make the unfamiliar more familiar. When the child is familiar with a new food, it doesn’t smell so strong, feel so icky, or taste so spicy to them. When your child’s body and brain get used to the food, they can learn to taste it. They may learn to enjoy the smell and flavor of the food as well.
These activities for food play can be as simple as having your picky eater help chop and prep foods alongside you. They can also be more fun and detailed if you have the time to put into it.
Almond activities aren’t going to make your child discover a love of almonds overnight. This is a process that may take a great deal of time. Kids may go through many stages of interacting with almonds, including looking at them, smelling them, touching them and tasting them. If your child is extremely picky, start small with looking and smelling activities and work up to the bigger activities like touching and tasting.
Here is one food play activity for kids using almonds. If you need more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
Here is an almond activity that Devin’s parents could do to help him learn to like almonds. While playing, use the neutral words mentioned above to talk about almonds with your child.
Age group: 3-11
- Write a letter, number or shape on a piece of paper.
- Pour almonds into a bowl.
- Use the almonds to trace the letter, number or shape and invite your child to join you. They can form their own letter on a plate or they can place the almonds directly on top of the letter you wrote to ‘trace’ it.
- For more fun, encourage your child to use the almonds to make their own designs.
Choking prevention tip: You can find sliced almonds in small quantities in the baking section of your grocery store to save money and prep time.
For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed