The meal time struggle is real.
No matter what you make, bake, cook, or blend there is always someone at the table that is less than impressed with what is for supper. And for some reason it is always supper at our house that is the struggle. The boys go through phases of picky eating and being more adventurous it seems which also throws me for a loop. One day they just want plain noodles and chicken fingers and the next they are shocking you and eating a plate of fish (after 10 years of me coaxing, offering, trying, fighting, bribing… you get the idea) and liking it.
So I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that have helped me throughout the years. These may not work for every family but they have definitely helped ours. I’d love to hear your thoughts on meal times and how you make them more manageable too!
Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
- Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try – Yes. That many times. Kids need to see and taste a food at least 10-15 times before it becomes familiar. So yes they may pass on the broccoli and put up a fight with spaghetti sauce but the more you put it in front of them the more likely it is that they will want to eat it.
- Don’t force them to eat lots of a new food – Trying a new food is stressful. It is an unknown texture, smell, and taste. Think if you moved to a new country and had to eat all new foods at every meal. It would be overwhelming! In our house it has worked for us to offer a new food and let them try it but not put an amount along with it. So they are still trying new things but they aren’t expected to eat a full plate of it if they don’t like it.
- Don’t cook 17 different meals – This is a big one for me. I don’t have time to cook everyone a different meal every night and to be honest even if I did I am not a private chef. They eat what we eat. BUT here’s the thing. Each plate can still look different. If we’re having pasta my husband and I may have lots of sauce, a salad, bread etc. The kids may have the noodles with less sauce, or for the really picky ones, a small bit of noodles with sauce and the rest without so they are trying everything but not eating a full meal of something they hate. See #2 for why this works. Amanda from More Life also uses this method and even has cute little plates for the kids to eat where no food has to touch if they don’t want to. But the point is they are still eating everything you are just in a different way. Less work for you; less complaining from them.
- Get them involved – The more the kids know about cooking, where their food comes from, and how it is prepared the more they will eat. We love doing “Master Chef” nights at our house where we have a list of ingredients we all have to put into a dish and we spend the evening cooking together and trying out what each other makes.
- Let them choose occasionally – This goes hand in hand with getting them involved. Let them choose the vegetable that night. If you are at the grocery store let them pick out what kind of sandwich meat they want for their lunch that week.If you see a new fruit get one to try it out. The more involved they are the better!
Deanne Ferguson is the owner of Box Social Event Planning. When she is not planning fun, family, friendly events she is finding the yummiest food for the Edmonton Home and Garden Show Food Stage. She loves her #cocktailsMonday dates with her husband and chasing around her two boys. You can find her at @DeanneFerguson on Instagram and @BoxSocialYEG on Twitter.