With the holiday season fast approaching, everyone’s favorite dishes will soon appear on the dinner table. Everyone has different taste buds, so that means everyone has different favorite dishes. I know that I am looking forward to sweet potato soufflé and deviled eggs, but I could definitely do without the cranberry sauce. Unfortunately, many parents find themselves in a bind trying to feed their picky eaters. Remember, you are not alone in this battle, and try not to get too frustrated by this typical behavior. This article includes some tips on what to avoid and strategies to help your favorite picky eater!
Eat family style. Trying sharing a meal together, as a whole family, as often as you can. This means sitting at a table and turning off the distractions like TV, radio, or cell phones at mealtime. When preparing for your family’s well-balanced meal, incorporate at least one food you know that your picky eater likes. Eating family style also allows for you to set a good example! That squash on your plate may not look appetizing to your picky eater, but if they see you try it, they may be more apt to as well!
Try, try again! Just because a picky eater refuses different foods once, doesn’t mean they won’t ever like it. Keep offering new foods and those your picky eater didn’t like before. It can take as many as seven times to taste food before your taste buds accept it. I can remember as a child disliking anything colored with green vegetables. This could have been salad, peas, green beans, lima beans, or another vegetable. As an adult, I have come to enjoy all of these vegetables and many more! If I had not tried them again, I still may not know if I like them or not.
Make food fun. There are many ways to accomplish this. Youth are typically open to trying foods arranged in eye-popping, creative ways. Make foods look irresistible by arranging them in fun, colorful shapes they can recognize. Finger foods and foods that you dip are also a big hit! Try involving your picky eater in meal planning and prep. Let them pick which fruit and vegetable to add to dinner, or pick them out at the grocery store. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let them pick out new recipes to try. Involve them in some of the cooking tasks, such as sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, or picking garden fresh herbs or vegetables.
Finding the right pair. When serving unfamiliar foods, pair the food with something that is familiar. Many picky eaters will not try broccoli alone, but if you add cheese to it, it becomes a whole new dish!
Fight over food. If your picky eater refuses to eat their meal, avoid making a hassle over it. It is important for individuals to learn to listen to their bodies, which will tell them when they are hungry or not. It is up to the adult to provide the food, and it is the other’s decision to eat. Pressuring them into eating, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise have liked.
Bribes. This goes along with fighting over their food. While it may be tempting to bribe your picky eater to try something, this is not how food should be handled. Bribing to eat the “yucky” food makes the “prize” food that much more exciting. This can lead to future trouble at the dinner table.