Picky eaters. We all know one (or ten). Don’t we, moms? My toddler only wants to eat chicken nuggets, when she wants to eat at all — and my preschooler pretends she is “sick” when she doesn’t like what I’ve made for dinner. They both are making me crazy. I’ll admit, I am kind of terrified to start feeding baby number three real (solid) food. I don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection. I am in a fragile, delicate place here. You feel me? So here’s my question, and my daily frustration. What’s the best strategy for dealing with picky eaters?
1. Experts say we should introduce healthy foods from the beginning.
Stick to your guns. Fruits and veggies (of the deepest and darkest varieties) are our friends. Healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle start now. Encourage your littles to “eat their colors”. Brightly colored foods offer more nutrients in a greater variety.
Feeding Specialist Dawn Winkelman says, “if you want to have a healthy baby, a healthy family — you’ll have healthy snacks like blueberries around for snacking. If mom and dad are healthy, baby will be less picky. Encourage your children to eat whole foods. Modeling is so important. Mom and Dad don’t eat pouches, so why should baby?”
2. Recruit your child’s help.
Include your littles in the prep work. If they help to make it, they are more inclined to eat it. Include them in the grocery buying process. Give them ownership; create buy-in. We love the Learning Tower from Little Partners for this exact reason. It’s the only step stool on the market designed specifically to meet the needs of both young toddlers and big kids alike. My toddler loves to “do everything herself.” With the Learning Tower, she actually can help in the kitchen. And it even transforms into an ice cream stand when we’re done with dinner! How cute, right?!
3. Don’t buy junk food.
This is one of the easiest ways to deal with picky eaters. Out of sight, out of mind, right? If it isn’t in the house, it isn’t a “real” option. Save the junk and sweets for treats and special occasions — in moderation, of course. Have healthy finger foods ready and available, and try to keep snacks to a schedule. After all, if they’re full on snacks — even healthy snacks — they probably won’t be hungry for their regularly scheduled meals. Here’s to outsmart our toddlers!
4. Don’t force your child to “clean her plate.”
Kids know when they are full. You should NEVER force your child to overeat. We like to employ the “one bite rule”: you must try at least one decent sized bite — if you honestly can’t stand the taste of said dish, then fine. But you’re going to try a bite, and you’re going to be polite about it. This is especially important in public situations — no one likes the rude kid that won’t eat anything. Trust me. I don’t want that kid at my house…
5. Serve small portions. Give them the opportunity to ask for more.
6. Be patient when introducing new foods, and make it fun!
Feeding specialist Dawn Winkelman says picky eaters don’t like their foods to touch. They don’t want the flavors (of their purees) to mix. She says the compartments of the EZPZ Happy Mat help with this. Food won’t encroach, and the Happy Mat really encourages littles to work on their gross motor skills — scooping and pulling and pinching, “setting kids up for self-feeding success.”
With the EZPZ book Making Meal Time EZPZ, you can create adorable food art, without the dreaded headache of a bento box. (Gag me. I don’t have time for that Pinterest shi*.) Dawn says the Happy Mat encourages really great language skills — “your Happy Mat is ready” instead of “breakfast is ready.” She says the Happy Mat helps to improve attentiveness and excitement at mealtime, because it allows for interaction — which in turn creates a positive discussion about food. The Happy Mat is your palette for your food art creations. We are obsessed with our Happy Mats. My daughters love to eat their happy faces 😉
7. Turn off the television!
Eat dinner as a family and talk to each other (GASP!). Talk about your day, your plans for the weekend. Heck, maybe just talk about the foods that you are eating. Just keep the distracting television turned off — this should help to make meal time more meaningful!
8. Remember: You are not a short order cook!
So don’t allow yourself to be treated like one. My children are slowly (and painfully) learning that mom isn’t going to make them 10 dinners. They either eat what I serve them, or they go to bed “hungry.” Eventually, they are going to learn to eat what mom makes. And when all else fails, I just hide fruits and veggies in a green smoothie! Hey, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.
How did you deal with your picky eater? Did you drink all the wine? Did you just give in and feed your child chocolate for breakfast? We’d love to hear! Feel free to share in the comment section below!