These past few months dinnertime has become a moment I dread. My kids have been super picky and refuse to eat what I make. I was getting so frustrated because I wound up making two to three different meals just to satisfy everyone’s appetite. This became exhausting and was obviously very time consuming. Times have certainly changed because growing up I was told to either eat what was made or I could go to bed hungry.
I have always tried to make a variety of foods so my kids would get used to experiencing new things and hopefully learn that healthy choices can taste good too (wishful thinking, I know!), but lately this has not been working out in my favor. This inspired me to come up with a list of ways to deal with the picky eaters in your household.
- You eat what you get and do not throw a fit! My son is the pickiest eater of all my kids. He would eat Mac & Cheese and PB&J everyday if I let him. To avoid a fight I would cater to him and make him something different. My husband pointed out that I needed to stop doing this because it was happening way too often. My solution was to let him know he had to try whatever I made. Most of the time he ends up liking it but on a rare occasion I will make him something else, but it has to be another healthy option.
- Finishing dinner. The rule in our house is if you don’t finish your dinner, it will be saved and when you tell me you are hungry later that is what you will eat. I can’t tell you how many times my kids tell me they are full and then 30 minutes later they tell me they are hungry. I walk over to the fridge, pull out what’s left and they know they have no choice but to eat it. Hold your ground because we all know kids like to call our bluff, so we have to let them know we mean business.
- Choose your words wisely! We all have gotten frustrated with our kids and immediately resort to yelling, but this does not always solve the problem. I have learned to make this conflict into a teaching moment. I tell my kids that “Not everyone is fortunate enough to have food on a daily basis so we cannot waste it.” This one hits close to home for them because they saw the poor communities on our trip to India last year. My other option is to give them nutritional information about the stuff they are eating. For example, “Did you know that eating lots of carrots can help your eyes?” This usually motivates them to make better choices. You’d be surprised what a difference a change in your approach and attitude makes.
- Get your children involved in cooking! This is another great way to implement a teaching moment and 95% of the time I let my kids help they end up finishing all of the food. Give them small and safe jobs like grating the cheese for the tacos, or put the toppings on a homemade pizza. We have a rule that one vegetable and one form of protein must be chosen, but other than that I let them make all the decisions. This also gives them confidence to be independent and makes them feel good about themselves. .
- Eat dinner together as a family! Sometimes we have a crazy schedule and this is not possible, but when you can make it a point to eat as a family. We have a rule that no one is allowed to get up from the table until everyone is finished. Sometimes kids will become distracted by their siblings doing other activities and so they will want to be excused from the table so they can join the fun. If everyone stays at the table until everyone is finished, dinnertime will be much more successful I promise. It is also good motivation for the younger kids to see the older ones eating and finishing their food.
- Try the hide the vegetables trick! My kids are picky when it comes to certain vegetables, so I like to hide them in the food I make. The best method is to saute them into whatever sauce you are using on your food. I tell them after what they just ate and they are always so surprised. And bonus the next time I make that vegetable I don’t have to hide it because they remember that they liked it the last time they ate it.
- Ask your child what they want to eat for dinner? Let me make the decision so you can save yourself the hassle and fight later. Now that my kids are a little older and able to make simple decisions, I ask them in the morning what they feel like eating for dinner, and if it’s reasonable and I have the time I will do it.
You aren’t going to win every battle but at least you can attempt to avoid them or at least have an effective solution if a fight does arise. The older my kids get the more they are open to trying new things and I think a lot of that has to do with the choices we have made as parents now. Try to be patient and a majority of time you will be successful.