This post contains affiliate links to products I use to tackle picky eating.
You have shopped for groceries, planned meals and successfully cooked supper. And then ten seconds after you gather the family around the table, you hear nothing but complaints, whining, and general disgust. You are frustrated and defeated. You are tired of putting effort into meals that are unappreciated and uneaten. Picky eating is stealing your meal time joy.
I have been there. As a matter of fact, we still have occasional meals that feel frustrating. But that is no longer our daily reality. I will not say that we have cured picky eating but we have quieted its complaints. And while not everyone in the house loves every meal or side I serve, everyone does try at least a bite without a fight.
My Kid’s Picky Eating Stole My Desire To Cook
A note, if your kids have long struggled with picky eating consider discussing this with your pediatrician to rule out medical issues that could complicate picky eating.
I Did One Push Up
Anytime, I decide that I would like to get into shape or lose weight, I expect miraculous results. For example, I did a push-up yesterday surely I am in shape enough to run a 5k today. I don’t mean to have unrealistic expectations but it happens. The same thing can happen with picky eating. You serve your children broccoli once, they didn’t like it, so you are going to give up. Just like one push up doesn’t work, trying a food once doesn’t cure picky eating. Expanding a picky eater’s palate is more of a marathon than a sprint. You will not see success overnight but if you stay focused and consistent, you will begin to see a big difference.
Decrease The Emotion
Fighting over dinner is not going to help your kids picky eating habits. Keep dinner light and fun. Even let the kids encourage the adults to try a new food with a good attitude. When everyone at the table is stressed, angry and disappointed you don’t have a good environment for tackling picky eating. One easy strategy is to make eating new foods a game!
Picky Eating Food Game Ideas
- “Broccoli Trees Being Stolen By Giants”- The grown up “plants” broccoli trees but this pesky giant (child) keeps coming and stealing the trees. Make your responses big and funny.
- “If You Eat All of Your Carrots You Can Get Up And Do A 10 Second Silly Dance”
- “Be Your The Announcer And Cheerleader”- The adult pretends he is the announcer at a big game and announces the eating of the new food and then the crowd goes wild.
Laughter more than frustration is an easy cure for the reluctant eater to try new food.
Do not tell your kids what you are having for dinner before it is served. If you write the meal plan on a decorative board or you tell them, it only gives them hours to come up with more complaints and gives them the opportunity to come to the dinner table with a closed mind.
Too Many Snacks
Your picky eater will live off of snacks if you let them. So close down the snack factory. You don’t have to carry snacks with you to entertain or just in case. Only have snacks at set times and not too close to dinner.
Always Have a Winner
Always try to have one “winner” at every meal. It may be sliced apples, grapes or rolls. You can offer the “winner” food closer to the end of dinner! You want to offer new foods at the beginning of dinner when your child is their hungriest and most likely to try what is set in front of them. A good rule to have is that the child has to eat some of everything else before getting a set portion of the “winner” food.
Build Your Own Meals
Build your own meals are a great solution for meal time. Taco night, chili bar, baked potato bar or nacho bar are great choices for build your own meals. And it really gives you the opportunity to make everyone happy. You can offer more varied toppings for your adventurous eaters and keep it simple for your picky eater.
The Secret Weapons
There are two books that changed my views on picky eating and helped me tackle the problem with my own family. I use these books often not only for their recipes but to reread when I feel bad habits slipping into meal time. I honestly feel like both of these books are the best secret weapons to defeating picky eating.
Picky eating is tough. And it can steal all of the joy from cooking and meal time. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You will not solve all of your picky eating problems quickly, some may take a year or longer. But remember to celebrate each victory! My picky eater is really proud of the new foods she has learned to like and enjoys meal time more.
Just as a final note, my youngest really struggled eating meat. She just didn’t like the texture and is very sensitive to dry or chewy cuts of meat. We solved this problem with the Instant Pot. Her entire view on meat has changed since I started cooking in the Instant Pot. Not only does she eat chicken and beef on a regular basis there are many nights when she asks for seconds. So if you have a picky meat eater, it may be worth checking out the Instant Pot.
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