Most every parent has at least one child that snubs his nose at all the meals you make! Use these 10 tips to help a picky eater and I promise things will start to improve!
Both of my girls were very picky eaters…like to the extreme for my older daughter! I was getting so tired of making two meals for us at dinner (one for me and my husband and one for them) that I knew something had to give! So I began following all of these tips and it has made an unbelievable impact! We are now able to eat a family meal and I’m a lot less stressed about meal planning!
1. Check to make sure there is nothing MEDICALLY wrong – I put this as #1 because a child that is struggling with a medical condition causing him or her to be a picky eater can’t be fixed by following my other tips. My older daughter was the pickiest eater in the world. Even as an infant, she would only nurse in 5 minute increments. I was exhausted. She never ate a full jar of baby food and as we transitioned to “real” food, the problem only seemed worse. She would gag on food, refuse to eat anything, and subsisted on milk, macaroni and cheese, and pancakes. I was so worried but no one would believe me because she was a healthy weight.
Eventually through various doctors and a speech therapist, we discovered she had a weakened jaw that made swallowing and chewing more difficult. She also had silent reflux. And she had chronic allergy and sinus issues that caused swelling in her tonsils (making swallowing hard). The good news was that all of these issues were fixable! But until I addressed them, she was never going to be able to eat as a normal child.
2. Choose one meal a day that EVERYONE eats – My girls know that breakfast and lunch are pretty much their choice (given it’s relatively healthy and we have it). But dinner is the meal I actually “prepare.” So come dinner time I know I’m asking very little of them to adapt by eating what’s cooked.
3. Ask for input from your kids – On Friday when I’m making my grocery list and planning our meals for the week, I ask my 2 girls what they would like for dinner the next week. I usually get the typical hotdogs, quesadillas and macaroni and cheese answer and that’s okay. I then say, well let’s choose one of those but how about some of THESE dinner ideas? And we scroll through pinterest pictures or a cookbook together. Then on the night I cook one of the meals we chose, I remind them that they chose it and how exciting it is!
4. Use positive wording when it comes to dinner – Now what does that mean?! For example, when my girls ask me “Mom what are we having for dinner tonight?” I say “Oh, we are having this YUMMY chicken and noodle dish and you are going to LOVE it!” I cannot tell you what an impact this has on their little brains. They go into dinnertime already expecting to like it and it makes them more receptive to actually liking it. I also don’t mention any ingredients that make the “kid weird list.” So my chicken and noodle dish also had mushrooms and spinach but they don’t need to hear that in the description (unless your kids love it!).
5. It’s okay to disguise vegetables…to a point – A few years ago a cookbook came out that was all the rage. It’s main premise was pureeing veggies and fruits to a non recognizable existence and sneaking them in kids’ food. I have nothing against this idea…I just do NOT have time to be pureeing all those veggies and freezing them in baggies. So my favorite tool to use in the kitchen is the Tupperware Power Chef System! It is an ever so simple manual food chopper that cuts through virtually anything I give it! Just tonight I made an amazing chicken dish that included 8 oz of mushrooms, half a bag of spinach and a pint of tomatoes. But the pieces were sooooo thin that neither of my girls was the wiser. So the point is, sure go ahead and hide a few veggies here and there until your kids learn to eat healthy but don’t spend a ton of time doing it!
6. Every few nights, make a meal you KNOW your kids want to eat – For example, Monday and Tuesday night I prepare a meal that might be new or perhaps not my kids’ favorite but on Wednesday, we have chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. But Thursday we are right back to me cooking a regular family meal. This lets my girls know that I haven’t boycotted their favorite foods and that they can fit in to our family lifestyle in moderation.
7. Enforce the “No Thank-you” Bite – Because my girls can be picky eaters, it’s all to easy for them to take one look at a new food and say “Yuck, gross!” So they now know that I expect them to at least take one bite of everything on their plate…they can say no thank-you to any more. They can even spit it out! But they have to try it! Because it’s important to remember that children’s pallets change and what they didn’t like last month may become their favorite this month!
8. Involve your kids in the actual preparation of dinner – Find something that is age-appropriate and let your kids get in on the action. If it’s washing vegetables, rolling crescent rolls, or even setting the table, there is nothing like a little “buy-in” from your kids to get them on board with a new meal.
9. Mix up your kid’s plates and servingware – Another simple one but I spend very few dollars and get my girls an assortment of plates. Some are the basic colorful ones from IKEA. Some are girls divided plates (because they hate for their food to get mixed). A couple even have their name. Some nights I give them forks and spoons but a lot of times I give them a toothpick! This was a trick I learned from my older daughter’s physical therapist. You would not believe how many more bites of chicken or grapes my girls eat when they get to use a toothpick!
AND MY #1 TIP TO HELP YOUR PICKY EATER…
10. Make sure your kid is hungry! – I know this seems so simple but I spent more years than I care to admit giving my girls a hefty snack at 4 pm and then expecting them to eat our family dinner at 5:30 pm. It just isn’t enough time to let them REALLY get hungry. So, now my kids know that up until 3:30 pm, they can have a light snack. But no eating between then and dinner time. You would be amazed at how much more receptive a hungry child is to a new meal versus a non-hungry one!
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