Got a picky eater?! Below is some great advice from for moms who struggle daily with their little picky eaters.
Regardless of how long it may seem that your child has been lingering in the world of “picky eaters,” it will get better. As adults, we have eating preferences but I’ve never met an adult who only ate mac and cheese. Dinnertime used to be my most dreaded time of the day; simply because I felt I had become a short-order cook. Everyone ate something different and a 30-minute meal took nearly an hour to prepare, just to accommodate all five of us.
Today, I am going to give you some practical tips that have worked for my family and many others. Regardless of what type of picky eater you have (texture, color, or one refuses to try anything new) you must remember not to give up and that consistency is key.
1. Feed your child when he is hungry. Kids will give you hunger queues, such as lingering around the kitchen, opening the fridge or pantry, ask for snack, or get very whiny. Try to not feed your child a snack within an hour and a half before meal-time; it’s true what our grandmothers used to say that it will spoil dinner.
2. Stick to a routine. Many parents complain about tackling picky eaters “not working” yet their evenings are activity-filled and they rarely eat dinner together. Unless you are home with your child during the day, dinner is the only opportunity to try new things. Pick your battles; either chauffeur your other kids to soccer and dance or have dinner together; but don’t expect your 3 year old to learn about new foods from the car seat.
3. Be patient with new foods. You serve your child something that looks great and tastes really good but he refuses to eat it. You try it a few times and no luck. Did you do something wrong? Not at all. Keep introducing it in different ways. One day he may try it and like it. Sometimes, you might only get two bites and they decide that they’ve had enough. That’s ok too. Praise, praise, praise. Two is better than zero.
4. Make it fun. It’s ok to let them bathe that broccoli in ranch dressing. Whatever gets them to eat it at first is fine. This is when you can get creative and throw some broccoli in quiche, scrambled eggs, or pasta.
5. Give them options, but not too many. “Tonight we have broccoli or green peas. Which one are you going to eat?” This way, your child has some control over their environment (a big part of why kids are picky eaters) and they are eating something good for them the same time.
6. Recruit their help. Getting kids involved doesn’t always mean in the kitchen. At the grocery store, let your child pick which fruit and veggie they want to eat this week. They chose it, so there’s no excuse to not eat it! Don’t bring kids to the grocery? Ask them while you are putting your list together.
7. Start out slow. My son has an issue with textures and won’t eat eggs (in any shape or form) so I make him french toast on our breakfast-for dinner nights. Yesterday, he took TWO bites of scrambled eggs, and then he had enough. I told him he did a great job with the two bites and I moved on to something else.
8. Make some adjustments. If your child doesn’t eat chili because they don’t like beans, pull out a little chopper and puree it. Add a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese and now they have “dip.” Serve with a few chips and dinner is now a lot more fun!
9. Set boundaries and food rules. Children are expert manipulators. We set a 3-bite rule before they can say “no” to an item. If they refuse to try or eat it they are sent to their room or removed from the table. Whining and crying over food at the table is not allowed. Sometimes, by the third bite they forget they didn’t like it in the first place and end up devouring the entire plate.
10. Stay positive. This last one is perhaps the most difficult for a busy parent. At the end of the day, we often feel spent and running on reserve power. My friend Michelle says “nothing a glass of vino can’t handle.” I love that attitude. It reminds me that much of good parenting is about being encouraging, nurturing, and flexible. You can do it!
Laura Fuentes, Chief MOM at MOMables™, a wife, mother of 3 and a lunch enthusiast who insists on healthy, wholesome food for her family. She's cooked up an entire company based on the principle of feeding kids uncomplicated good food. On her personal blog, Super Glue Mom, she writes about motherhood, green living, deadlines and keeping her cool, even when her kids super-glued her hair!