Ah, picky eaters… The bane of many a parent’s existence!
Nearly every parent has dealt with a picky eater at one time or another. Most kids go through at least a short stage where they decide they don’t like one or more particular foods.
I’m lucky enough to have a couple of great kids who aren’t picky eaters. Good thing, too, because I’m pretty sure they’d go hungry if they were. I’m a pretty easygoing mom, except when it comes to picky eaters. Finicky eaters lead to nothing but frustration and food waste – two things that I don’t much care for.
Before my kids were even eating solid food, I told myself that I would not raise picky eaters. To help ensure this, I took a few steps to ensure that mealtime wouldn’t be a fight and I wouldn’t be throwing out plates of food every night.
Stick to a Dinnertime Routine
I’m a firm believer in sitting down to dinner as a family regularly. Not only does this help you all connect with each other on the busiest days, but children also typically do best with a regular routine. Kids, especially younger kids, are also more likely to try new foods when they see their parents eating them.
Follow Mealtime Rules
Dinnertime at my house means that everyone sits at the table, manners abound, and – most importantly – phones and televisions are off! We also all stay at the table until everyone is finished. The less distractions the kids have, the fewer excuses I hear along the lines of “I’m not hungry!” or “I don’t like it!” The kids know that even if they finish their dinner before everyone else, it doesn’t mean they get to leave the table early.
Make Mealtime Fun
I’m not advocating food fights here, but do try to make meals enjoyable and stress-free. For instance, we have an absolutely no arguing rule at dinner time. The kids aren’t to bicker with each other and we are forbidden to lecture them about anything. Instead, we all take turns sharing our worst and best parts of the day. It’s a fun time that we all look forward to each night, and it allows us to catch up with each other.
Say “No” to Snacks
Occasional healthy snacks aren’t usually a problem, but allowing the kids to stuff themselves with whatever they want can be. Kids who snack and graze throughout the day are less likely to be hungry come dinnertime. Try limiting snacks to one or two per day.
Don’t Be Picky Eaters Yourselves
If a little one sees that mom or dad don’t like lots of different foods, there’s a good chance that they will be more likely to dismiss foods without giving them a chance. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate Lima beans with a passion. I hate everything about them – the taste, the color, the texture. But, despite my displeasure with these nasty little veggies, I still serve them from time to time. And I even
hide them under my mashed potatoes when the kids aren’t looking eat them with gusto whenever I do. I’m also not too shy about trying new foods, and the kids are always eager to follow my lead.
Let Them Help With Dinner
There’s some sort of draw with kids and cooking. They love to help in the kitchen and cook. If you’re dealing with picky eaters, let them help out in the kitchen. If they help make the meal, they’ll most likely be proud of themselves and more likely to try their own cooking.
Try, Try Again
So, you served your picky eaters beets and they hated them. Should you completely eliminate them from your menu? Absolutely not! Kids’ tastes change and develop often. Just because they don’t like something once doesn’t mean they won’t like it a few months down the road. Reintroduce foods several times before completely striking it from your menu. When you do introduce a previously poo-pooed food, do so alongside your little ones favorite foods.
Don’t Be a Short Order Cook
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – stop being a short order cook for your kids! Making something special for them when they tell you that the dinner you made is “yucky!” is doing more harm than good. Yes, you might be warding off a tantrum, but you’re also turning them into picky eaters. We have a rule at our house – if you don’t eat the dinner that’s served, then you don’t eat. Period. If they don’t eat what’s served, save them some leftovers to heat up for them later. It may sound tough, but it works. I’ve never forced my kids to eat, and they haven’t starved. Yet. But, they did learn at an early age that I have no tolerance for picky eaters, nor will I cater to their every culinary whim. Now that my kids are a little older, though, I realize that there are a few foods that they simply don’t like and give them the option of making a PB&J or other simple meal for themselves when I serve these foods.