Dealing with kids who are picky eaters can be challenging when you’re feeding them three meals a day. Read on for tips to eliminate food fights in your home!
“What do you mean he doesn’t like pizza, EVERY KID LOVES PIZZA.” There I sat in a room full of parents with all eyes on me. Maybe, every other kid, but not mine. AND (audible gasp) we don’t force the issue. See, I was THAT new mom who read every book about introducing foods in phases, made her own baby food with whole, nutritious food locally sourced from the farmers’ market (of course), and let her baby squish around exploring black beans and avocados beaming with pride about my baby’s palate. Fast forward five years and the sight and smell of an avocado make my oldest gag.
At first, I would tirelessly sit and reintroduce food, thinking it would change his mind—SPOILER ALERT: it didn’t. His turned-up nose is not for my lack of trying. I quickly realized that my firmness and his stubbornness were butting heads. We weren’t getting anywhere with mealtime and honestly, causing undue stress on the both of us. Every meal was becoming a literal food fight that I didn’t want to be a part of.
One day I just ended it.
So what if his food cravings are capped at like ten items, as long as he’s happy, healthy, and nutritionally sound. My new philosophy is “embrace the season,” find the path of least resistance, and do what works for you and your family.
Understand that taste buds and eating preferences mature…sometimes
It hit me as we were chatting about it with a group of parents that everyone had a funny (sometimes traumatizing) story related to food as a kid. Many still had a deep hatred of certain foods since childhood or were STILL picky eaters to this day. Although their preferences may have increased, for a majority, the forcefulness they experienced didn’t change a thing. These stories made me realize that I could either force it or come alongside his food journey in a positive manner. Helping him to make smart choices, but knowing he may not like EVER broccoli, and that’s okay, too.
Pick Your Battles
Outside of ensuring his nutritional needs are met, we relinquish that control. Many times being obstinate about mealtime isn’t about the green beans; it’s about ‘who’s winning.’ To put the control back in his hands (at least he thinks so), we agreed to a script where we always politely try a food first, and say no thank you if it does not agree with our stomach or taste buds. Then, we move on and don’t make it a thing.
Deconstruct, deconstruct, deconstruct
The first response I usually receive from other parents is, “I’m not making separate meals.” Um, I’m not either. Knowing his likes and dislikes has helped me to think creatively and reintroduce meals that we’re already eating–but in a different way. For example, we love pressed sandwiches for a quick weekend lunch. Think of the basics of panini as a protein, cheese, and bread. Prior to putting it on the griddle, I place the cold ingredients to the side. Everyone’s happy–no extra meals, no extra cleanup and most importantly, no tears.
Sometimes You Gotta Get Sneaky With Picky Eaters
Every meal we try to toss in something sneaky, whether it’s veggie chips, apple and fruit sauces, plant-based meatballs, or cauliflower mac-n- cheese. Close enough to the real deal, while being nutritious enough for me to feel good about his choices. I’m all about finding ways to layer healthy options disguised as a snack or a favorite, especially when their mouths are clenched over the sight of quinoa.
Make It Fun!
Bake muffins or cookies, assemble sandwiches, or have an MYOP (make your own pizza) night. Doesn’t matter the menu, get them into the kitchen with you. One of the easiest ways for us to try new foods is for him to see, feel, and smell the ingredients himself. Now, he’s not eating gorgonzola or diversifying his palette in a huge way, but he’s trying, and that’s an accomplishment (even if small) right there.