Are you living with a picky eater? Picky eaters can make dinner time miserable for everyone involved, especially the person who prepared the meal. It sometimes feels like a slap in the face when a meal or specific dish goes untouched, or if your picky eater takes one look at their dinner plate and asks for something else. If this person is your spouse, I may not be able to help you. If this person is your pre-schooler, here are some ideas to try:
- Involve your kids in the meal planning process. Even picky eaters have some foods they like. If you let them help plan the meals, and choose at least one liked item per meal, they are more like to eat something.
- Take them grocery shopping. This is another level of getting to choose what’s on their dinner plates. It’s one thing to plan a meal and agree that corn is an acceptable veggie. It’s even better for a kid to see the corn in the produce section, and pick the one he thinks looks the best. Not only will this encourage him to eat it, it will help him learn a valuable life skill: navigating the grocery store.
- Take it even another step further: Have the kids help prepare meals. Maybe not every meal, but at least occasionally.
- Dress it up. It will be a little extra work, but try making a picture or shape on the plate with the food. Here’s an example:
- Do not make two meals! Nobody has that kind of time or energy, and it just sets the stage for kids to run the house, or at least the kitchen. Make the rule that everyone gets the same meal.
- It’s okay if kids choose to not eat. We all worry about our kids getting adequate nutrition, and when they refuse to eat it’s even worse. The thing is, stressing out and fussing over an untouched plate only causes the child to feel stressed. When a child feels stressed at dinnertime, they are much less likely to eat. And they will remember that stress day after day.
- If your little sweetie is especially disagreeable to an entire food group, like vegetables, you can always hide them in sauces and other things. Pureed pumpkin hides very well in macaroni and cheese, frozen broccoli can be chopped very fine in a blender and put into meatballs or meatloaf without being detected. Here’s a really good blog post on hiding veggies. Just remember to continue to offer recognizable vegetables on the plate as well. The more kids see vegetables, the more comfortable they may become with the thought of eating and enjoying them.