If you have a picky eater like I do, then dinner time may perhaps be one of the most frustrating times of the day. My parents made me sit at the dinner table until I ate everything on my plate when I was a child. So, I vowed I would NEVER do that to MY child. However, the thought of making a thousand different things for dinner doesn’t appeal to me either. So, I did a little stressing, a little yelling, a little crying, a little threatening, and finally, I got smart. I did a little research. I’m hoping that something I found will help you as much as it helped me.
1. Give Your Child Some Limited Control Over The Menu
Let them help you plan what you are going to eat for the week or month by choosing a few of their favorite food items. However, they have to at least try some of the other foods to get to have their favorites on the menu.
2. Make Food Fun
Make funny faces with the food. Make puzzle sandwiches. Give them healthy dressing or dip. You can even give them their own special dish to eat out of to encourage them to eat. There is an ingenious book for picky eaters and the people who love them that we own called I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
Lola is a fussy eater. A very fussy eater. She won’t eat her carrots (until her brother Charlie reveals that they’re orange twiglets from Jupiter). She won’t eat her mashed potatoes (until Charlie explains that they’re cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji). There are many things Lola won’t eat, including – and especially – tomatoes. Or will she? According to Michelle May, MD, a family physician and author of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, it’s okay to let your kids play with their food. “Most kids love to examine, smell, and touch their food,” she says. “Since eating is a total sensory experience, they get the most from every morsel. It’s a wonderful way to appreciate the aroma, appearance, and flavors without distraction.”
3. Have Them Help You Cook
My kids enjoy helping me cook and love too see the final product. They feel proud and are usually more willing to eat something that they contributed to. You can even play restaurant. Put on an apron and have your child put a chef hat on. You can make up silly names for each food. You can even let them serve the food.
4. Give Them A Choice With Something Other Than Food
You can give your picky eater a choice in something different. Maybe you could let them choose what outfit they are going to wear for the day. Perhaps you could give them the power to choose whether you go to the park or the library for the day.
5. Don’t Be A Short-Order Cook
I am the WORST for doing this, and it was one of the main reasons for my research. Research on family mealtime suggests that if a child is given the food that everyone else eats, and is matter-of-factly expected to eat it, then they end up eating what the family eats. It doesn’t always work with my 4-year old, but it’s getting better.
6. “Hate” Is A Four-Letter Word
In saying this, your child is merely expressing fear. They don’t want to venture into the unknown and veer too far from what they are used to, as this is scary. It might be gross. Try to convince them otherwise. The rule in our house is that you have to at least try everything once. There is a difference between a child who is reluctant to try anything new or different and a child who has a well-established dislike for one or two foods. It isn’t torture to expect kids to try a taste of a new food every few months, but don’t insist kids eat things they absolutely can’t stand.
7. Set “Don’t Like” Limits
You can set a simple mealtime rule to help with picky eating. It’s okay for kids not to eat what they “hate.” However, they are only allowed to “hate” a few things. For instance, they can hate green beans and rice, but they can’t hate carrots or the broccoli they’ve never tried.
8. Supplement As Needed
Consider supplementing your child’s diet with a children’s multivitamin. We use gummy vitamins because my kids think they are fun and they taste good. Reduce in-between-meal snacks so your child is more likely to be hungry at mealtimes. When you do give your child a snack, make sure it is healthy and nutritious. Also, try to eat your meals at the same time every day so that your child knows when he/she is expected to eat.
9. Don’t Stress Over Their Weight
Unless your child is actually losing weight or getting sick from not eating, do not get overly concerned about his/her weight. If you’re really concerned about your child not eating enough, see your pediatrician. He/she may suggest a visit to a nutritionist for help.
10. Be Persistent
Keep offering the foods that are on your regular dinner menu rotations. By sheer repetition, these foods will become familiar, and kids will eventually try them and possibly like them. Research shows that when introducing a new food, it may take up to 15 exposures to the food before it becomes familiar. So, children could simply be rejecting the food because it hasn’t become familiar yet, and not necessarily because they don’t like it.
11. Be Sneaky
There are a few different cook books that are sold in book stores and online and even free (I got a free one from Amazon on my Kindle !!) that teach parents how to disguise fruits and vegetables into foods that most kids love. Some of these recipes involve using a food processor and mixing the puree with sauces or even into batters. The book I got was What to Cook for Dinner for Picky Eaters
It also includes *Tips from a Nutritionist” and *Tips from Chef John and Anne. Hopefully, family meal time can become much more pleasant for you by following a few of these simple steps.
Sources cited : My own ideas & thoughts, http://voices.yahoo.com/dinner-time-woes-advice-parents-picky-eaters-7755409.html?cat=25, Parenting Expert, Dr. Lawrence Cohen, Michelle May, MD, I Will Never NOT Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child, and What To Cook For Dinner For Picky Eaters : Chef John’s Family Favorite Main Dish Recipes by John and Anne Newsome.