29 Aug Tips On How To Handle A Picky Eater
I always said that God gave the pickiest picky eater because I would be able to relate and help other mamas that go through picky eating stages! And it CAN come and go. I look back and I swear my daughter survived off coconut milk + I’m honestly not sure how she is alive, but YAY for coconut giving the healthy fats in a time where that’s all she would want! I wanted to bring you some of my top tricks that I used during this frustrating time that really got her to explore more food options and keep my sanity.
Tip #1: Let the picky eater have control
Remember – we are raising little adults. They want to be treated as such, but with boundaries! I’m not saying they can choose whatever they want to eat because that’s definitely not the case (they most likely would choose Goldfish for dinner if you let them and that’s what they’re used to!). But within meal time and what you make for dinner, let them know that they have control. As a control addict myself, if I know or even *think* I have control, I do MUCH better in the situation and you’ll avoid temper tantrums. Things that I let them have control on at dinner time:
- The amount they want to eat (I encourage them to make their plate and choose the amount they want to eat, but they do have to grab a little bit of everything made.)
- The amount of time they want to eat (yes, that might mean playing with their food with a fork for a while and bites here and there – meal time shouldn’t be rushed.)
- If they truly don’t like it, they have the choice not to eat it, but at least trying it a couple of bites. Kiddo’s palates change a couple times during the year, so if they don’t like it now – that doesn’t mean they will not like it forever.
Tip #2: Always pair a new food with a food they like
When making meals, such a dinner, I always make sure to incorporate a food they like with a new food. That way you’re leaving meal time knowing that they did eat SOMETHING and they are naturally going into meal time not dreading “all the gross stuff”. Better attitudes = better mealtime. If they choose to have more of the food they like on their plate (more chicken versus asparagus) that is TOTALLY fine.
Tip #3: Never have BACKUP
I repeat, NEVER HAVE BACKUP. If your kiddo is used to chicken nuggets and hot dogs and mac and cheese and THAT’S IT, I repeat, do NOT give backup if they refuse to eat the meal you made for dinner. You are not a restaurant. You are not required to make 5 different dinners to please everyone. Kids are smart + they are quick to think “I just won’t eat. Mom or dad will eventually give in and give me the foods I want.” I PROMISE they won’t starve. I have personally witnessed this multiple times with my kiddos. They will choose to eat! This is why I do recommend doing the tip before, so they do always have something on their plate they like. I do also encourage healthy variety – it’s super easy to whip up a couple of different roasted veggies on the same pan. Plus, if you have leftovers, that’s a WIN! Less cooking to do tomorrow.
Tip #4: Fun Plates for the Picky Eater
If you haven’t seen my previous blog about fun “game” plates, you have got to go check it out! Seriously, one of my favorite ways to bring “fun” back into meal time. And as CRAZY as it sounds, I had my kiddos try foods they NEVER WOULD’VE TOUCHED before, but because it’s on a fun plate, they were SO much more willing to try. Plus, that fun little treat at the end is their goal! Enjoy life chocolate chips are our favorite item to put in there and Justin’s peanut butter cups!
Tip #5: Talk + COMMUNICATE!
Once they hit an age where they understand, communicating is the BEST THING YOU CAN DO. Talking to them about the importance of what we eat + what it does for the body and honestly, I was really frank with my kiddos. I talked about chronic diseases + how food and lifestyle impacts that. I talk about how your body is supposed to feel and what it can do when it’s given the right foods. They understand more than you think. Even outside of talking to each other, being an example of what YOU do is going teach them the most. I always say – “more is caught than taught”. Talk to them, teach them, guide them, be an example. It will stick, even if it doesn’t seem like it, but it will – I promise! Patience is key!
Tip #6: “Hide Some Veggies”, if you need to.
I don’t recommend this as a long term solution because you want them to fall in love with real food, but in the meantime to make sure they are getting nourished, there are so many yummy recipes that can hide some of the “yucky” foods they aren’t digging right now. Here are some of our favorites:
- Superfood Muffins
- Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta
- Breakfast Veggie Muffins
- Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- Cheesy Cauliflower Bread
Another tidbit to remember is to cook veggies different ways! They may not like something boiled, but they like it seasoned and roasted. They may not like it roasted, but grilled. There are so many options, seasonings, flavors, marinades that you can try to see what your kiddos truly love!
Of course, the best thing you can do is start them off with real wholesome foods right from the start + really minimize the processed foods that come into the home + what they consume. No, you don’t have to be the “weird mom” who doesn’t allow ANY cake at a birthday party (but, if you’re that person too, that’s cool too!), but processed foods are MADE to make us crave it and want it and change our palate. The less a kid is more exposed to, the better!
Want to work 1:1 with one of our dietitians + nutritionists to make sure that you’re filling up meal time with the most nourishing foods for you + the family? We’re here to help with the picky eater! Head over to our Work With Me page and check out what we offer.