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Back-to-School: Mississippi native...

Back-to-School: Mississippi native offers (REALISTIC!) Tips and Tricks for picky eaters

By: Courtney Ingle - August 22, 2023

Mississippi Native Sarah Osbon aims to teach you how to get your kiddo to hit all their nutritional marks and maintain your sanity. 

The back-to-school season already adds enough to your proverbial plate but if you have a picky eater, especially going into kindergarten, the youngster’s nutrition might be weighing on you. On a good day, it’s the same fight over trying vegetables and settling for one more bite – How will he or she eat at lunch? Will they eat? Is there enough to get them through the day? 

Pinterest boards, TikTok, and YouTube videos offer different tips and tricks, but they don’t seem relatable or even possible. You’ve debated giving in and sending a Lunchable daily, but you still feel guilty when browsing the social media feeds that highlight perfectly gourmet lunches. 

Mississippi Native Sarah Osbon gets it. That’s why her brand, Snacks with Jax, has gone viral on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. Sarah aims to teach you how to get your kiddo to hit all their nutritional marks and maintain your sanity. 

Osbon graduated with a nutrition degree from Ole Miss before transferring to Texas Woman’s University to become a Certified Health Education Specialist.

“I was at TWU when I had Jackson,” said Osbon. “And I was so homesick at the time. I named him after Jackson, Mississippi.” 

Osbon soon began working as a culinary teacher. She tailored her demonstrations around creating fun and healthy meals for families. 

“I think it was super relatable because as I was cooking and teaching, I was wearing Jackson,” said Osbon. “People seemed to relate to that. I’m a single mom, working, cooking, and caring for the baby at the same time.” 

Osbon began posting recipes, videos, graphics, and more on social media when she noticed more aesthetics and less realism regarding getting kids to eat. Her posts show how simple it can be to make swaps, pair foods your kids can enjoy, and get their full nutrition. 

Soon, Snacks with Jax took off, garnering national attention. 

“I would never have thought Good Morning America would be calling me to come to give tips on the show,” said Osbon. “But people relate to the struggle of getting kids to eat.” 

What NOT to Do – and What to Do Instead

Great ideas come from social media when it comes to enticing your kids to eat, but you’ve put in all the legwork, and now the little one still won’t eat. What now? Osbon said there are some things you should refrain from doing during mealtime. 

Don’t sweat the individual meal.

“Don’t just focus on one meal,” said Osbon. “It’s very easy to focus on what they do or don’t eat for one meal instead of looking at their nutritional needs and what they’ve eaten throughout the day or even a couple of days. That’s why it’s called a ‘recommended daily average’ and not a ‘recommended meal average.’”

For example, if your child isn’t eating enough protein at dinner, remember every meal and snack throughout the day. Maybe they ate all their protein in a previous meal, or they’ll get more the next day; you can supplement if needed. 

Don’t let the children dictate dinner.

“I follow the philosophy that it is your job to decide what to eat and when, and it is your child’s job to decide how much to eat,” said Osbon. “This means serving them what you have planned for the evening but adding “safe foods” or favorite foods alongside the meal.” 

If you’re serving pork chops, rice, and steamed vegetables, add foods you know they like, such as carrots or strawberries, and add ranch or cheese sauce to get them to try new foods.

Kids thrive on routine, so having a dependable dinner routine is necessary.

“I use a visual timer, so Jackson knows he has to sit for that amount of time, even if he is finished eating,” said Osbon. “So, we started at an age-appropriate time of five minutes, and we’ve worked up to fifteen.” 

Don’t be sneaky.

You’ve probably come across hacks showing how to hide pureed cauliflower in mashed potatoes or sneak beans into brownies. But Osbon said using these tricks to deceive your child can backfire.

“I don’t like the idea of hiding foods,” said Osbon. “Not to say I’ve never added foods, but I wouldn’t do it to tell them later, ‘Ha! You just ate that vegetable you hate,’ because they lose trust in you and may later reject food they typically liked.”

Instead of getting irritated at the fact that a child hates a certain food, get creative.

“I would ask, ‘How can I make this better for you?’” Osbon said. “We’ve used what I call ‘sprinkles’ on different things, like grated cheese, a favorite seasoning, or even actual sprinkles. If it means he will try it, it is worth giving it a shot.” 

Break the Rules: Play with Your Food.

You’ve been taught not to play with your food, but it may be time to break the rules and have a little fun with your food to encourage your kiddo at mealtime.

“We would play a ‘haircut’ game with broccoli,” said Osbon. “I’d nibble on the broccoli tops to trim it down and show Jackson that we were giving the broccoli a haircut.” 

Using toothpicks (if your child is old enough) adds a bit of fun to mealtime because it adds a novelty to picking up the food. Something so simple can have a big impact.

“We also played different games,” said Osbon. “You can use the food to play games involving color or counting or have question-and-answer games with older kids.” 

Expect some victories, even if they’re slow going.

These tips are tried and true with Osbon’s son, Jackson, and her viral videos have hundreds of comments from people with good results.

“It can take time,” said Osbon. “For example, Jackson used to hate salmon. I started making it in the air fryer to give that crispy skin because he likes crispy things. I just kept putting a little on his plate and working with him on trying different things with it. And now here we are. The last time I made it, I didn’t have enough for myself because he ate his portion and then wanted mine, too!” 

For more food tips for any mealtime, follow Sarah Osbon on Instagram and TikTok @SnacksWithJax, or Facebook at Snacks with Jax: Toddler Nutrition and BLW (baby-led weaning).

About the Author(s)
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Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.
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