We’ve all experienced picky eaters; the turned up nose, the scowl, the crossed arms. They all have their finicky ways. Some eat only one food color, others won’t eat anything that’s touching another food, yet others refuse to try anything new. One of my own children wouldn’t try chocolate because it was brown! (Yes, it’s a family joke now that he’s in college.)
Picky eaters are both aggravating and worrisome. Food is fuel. Healthy choices are necessary for growth. Mealtime battles are time and energy consuming. So what do we as parents do with our fussy eaters? Try these twelve ideas to help your finicky one eat better, defuse the battle, and improve mealtime for the family.
1. Make one meal for the whole family. Becoming a short order cook on the whim of a fussy eater is not beneficial for the child and will leave Mom or Dad frazzled. Kids are not entitled to choosing a dinner selection that’s different from the family every night. If you’ve been a short order cook in the past, ease into it. Have one dish on the table you know your fussy eater will consume, then move on from there.
2. Have a “One Bite Rule”. Whether a food is new to the child or not a favorite, encourage kids to try something new and to give others a second, third or seventh chance. It may take a number of times to develop a taste for certain foods.
3. Involve children in meal preparation. When a child is part of the process, he learns kitchen “how-tos” and sees the work involved in making healthy meals. Truly, it’s harder not to take a bite when a kid can say, “I helped!”
4. Choose colorful foods. Make the meal a feast for the eyes and the palate. Take your children to the grocery store and allow then to choose new foods or pick out favorites. picky eaters
5. Vary the preparation. If cooked carrots tend to wrinkle your daughter’s nose, try serving them raw with spinach dip. Cut peppers into fun shapes. Add vegetables to the pasta sauce. Be inventive!
6. Give foods a new, fun name. My sister’s kids called broccoli “trees” when they were little! My kids thought it was cool and followed the suggestion. It was fun to be a giant and gobble up whole trees from the forest.
7. Get in the habit of offering healthy choices for the whole family, Mom and Dad included. When only good choices are available, any option will be a good one. The New Year is a great time to make a new start. picky eaters
8. Serve milk and water. Soda pop is not a good choice, period. There’s too much sugar, tummies get filled too quickly, calcium and phosphorus are lost, and the risk of dental decay is higher. All are good reasons to skip soft drinks completely. Energy drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine, which is not a good choice for young children either.
9. Bread and butter is a last resort. For those determined little rascals, bread with butter is a final option. Or when my boys were not interested in dinner, Scott and I would tell them, “Breakfast is in the morning.” Kids will not starve overnight. If they are really hungry, they will eat something on the dinner table. picky eaters
10. Close the kitchen. When dinner is over, the kitchen is closed. If snacks are an option before bedtime, children don’t need to eat dinner and they are smart enough to know it. Stick to, “Breakfast is next.”
11. Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Give foods you haven’t liked in the past a chance. Just smile and swallow one bite.
12. Eat dinner together as a family, with prayer and without the TV, iPads, and cellphones. Thank God for the food on the table and the opportunity to be together. Focus on one another, eye to eye, heart to heart.
Enjoy mealtime together. It’s the time of time when you all come together, share you day’s adventures, and connect as a family. Dinnertime can be the best part of the day!
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.
Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
What strategies have you found helpful in getting your kids to try new foods?
By Becky Danielson
Wife to Scott, mom of two sons
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting
Co-author of Raising Little Kids with Big Love
and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love
both with Study Guides
If this post was helpful, pick up a copy of Raising Little Kids with Big Love on Amazon!