Conversely, if you pressure a child too much about food you run the risk of creating anxiety around meal times. So where is the middle ground? I have struggled with this having two very picky eaters, and a husband who tends towards the “you’ll eat what’s on your plate” school. It’s a tough balancing act and over the years I have developed a few ways around their finicky eating habits without, hopefully, creating food anxiety.
1. No thank you portion:
This is one of the most important rules in our house, the no thank you portion. It is a portion consisting of two or three bites of whatever it is my selective eaters do not want to eat. They may not be excused from the table until they finish it no ifs, ands, or buts about it. By making it a small portion, and giving it its own name it seems manageable to them, as well as me. We started this at an extremely young age and it is the one rule that is unquestionable in any of our minds.
I try to serve different things for dinner, not just the same old meal night after night. I also try to be inventive. It’s a challenge, especially after a long day when the last thing I really want to do is whip up an exciting dinner, but I have found it’s worth it. As adults you get bored eating the same thing over and over, and so do kids. By mixing up mealtime not only is everyone excited about dinner but it helps foster an adventurous sense of eating, in your child. One night we will have Tyson®Chicken Nuggets which almost always guarantees a clean plate, then a Pesto Pasta and after that a stir fry or something off the grill, some dinners work out perfectly and, I admit it, some are major flops but they do give us some pretty funny stories.
I like to get my kids involved in lots of things, one being grocery shopping. Sure sometimes I take them out of necessity but mostly I take them with me because I want them to be involved with our meals. They get to help me pick the produce and decide what main course we are going to have. When we get home, not only do I have them help me put away the groceries but at least one or two nights a week they actually help me prepare dinner. They get so involved in what we are making and the process of it that they forget to be picky.
I have always tried to slip fun into dinner whether it is making the broccoli stand up like little trees with piles of boulders, peas, underneath them, or arranging the pizza toppings so they look like a face. Kids are kids after all, and well their dad is a big kid too, so I like to keep them all laughing.
5. Give In
Every once in a while I give in to their picky persuasion and make whatever they want for dinner. Whether it’s pancakes for my daughter or a casserole for my son, they have to win sometimes too.