Got a picky eater?
God bless 'em, right?!
However, let's face reality. Picky eaters can thwart our best laid plans (ok, dreams) for happy meal times… Imagine a meal where everyone eats with a smile and absolutely no one complains!
That might sound like a fairytale, but your dream is within reach.
And to help you get there, today I've got 8 tips to help get your picky eaters on board. Because if they love real food, too, half the battle is won!
And the whole family will be happier for it, too. Especially you, Mom. 🙂
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Tip of the Week: Don't Change Everything at Once
Just like it takes time for our health to slip or pickiness to develop, it takes time to get back on track. Don’t feel that you have to redo your entire pantry or change your family's eating habits overnight. In fact, that might be a sure fire way to fail because not only is it too much to tackle at once, your family members (especially picky eaters) are sure to rebel!
No matter which of the following strategies you employ, do them one step at a time, always listening to your family and including them for feedback. They should feel part of the process, and therefore… part of the solution!
8 Tips To Help Picky Eaters Enjoy Real Food
Please note: If your child has sensory issues, some of these tips won't work and may even make things worse. You should instead check out Know Your Food #32 — My Kid Eats Everything! with my guest therapist Susan L. Roberts, an autism educator and consultant and author of the book My Kid Eats Everything!.
1. Involve picky eaters in every aspect of meal preparation: grocery shopping, planning the menu, food prep, serving, setting the table, and cleaning up. Children are much more likely to be excited to try foods they've helped prepare.
2. At meal times, don't place the focus on the food. Don't make your meals all about listening to your child whine and complain while you have to bargain and coerce them to “take 3 more bites”. Conversation should be light and fun, not about the food. Try to have some meal time conversation starters ready so that there isn't room during the meal time for the picky eaters to put up a fight.
3. If children do not eat what they are served, they should go hungry until the next meal. Period. This teaches them to eat when it is meal time and not to rely on snacks or extras served throughout the day to make up for what they didn't eat during the meal. Additionally, you can consider saving an uneaten meal to be eaten at the next meal time, sending the message that going on an “eating strike” isn't going to work.
4. If you're making separate foods for your picky eaters, STOP. Serve everyone the same thing. Make it a rule that everyone must try at least two bites of everything on their plates. They don't have to like it, but they are required to try it. When you're making separate foods just for picky eaters, they will never have a reason to be adventurous and happy eaters. They will not starve, I promise!
5. Cut way back on store-bought and processed foods. These foods are full of additives and flavorings that enhance their taste, tricking the brain into thinking they taste good and that mild, bland, or unflavored foods don't taste as good. By eliminating processed foods, you help to re-train your picky eater's brain to love foods in their natural state.
6. Don't try introducing a bunch of new foods at once. Keep some favorites around (make them healthier if store-bought or processed), and slowly add in new foods.
7. Don't give up on a food just because it wasn't well-received the first time. It can take several attempts and tastes before a food goes from icky to enjoyable. This is true for both adults and children. If you introduce a new food, and it isn't well-received, wait a few days and try again.
8. Sometimes it's all in the way you cook it. Steamed broccoli might be gross to a picky eater, but roasted broccoli with a little lemon squeezed on top might be their new favorite food. If you're serving canned veggies at all, go with fresh and see if everyone doesn't enjoy them more. The flavor profile of pretty much everything changes depending on how it's cooked. Figure out how to cook foods in ways your family loves.
Links and More
- KYF #32 — My Kid Eats Everything! — for children with sensory issues for whom the “usual” things don't work
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just 15 minutes of hands-on time!
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