Feeding picky eaters can be a real challenge. Whether you’re out for dinner or hosting a dinner party, if you’re in the company of a picky eater, you’ll be keeping an eye out for trouble: a socially awkward situation with a waiter, constant complaints, or a look that could possibly kill. It’s an issue that might be hard to get your head around if you’re one of those people who’s willing to try anything. It’s important to understand that picky eating is often something that starts in childhood and is frequently linked to anxiety.
What is picky eating?
When I say “picky eater,” please understand that I’m not talking about people with food allergies or who have dietary restrictions for medical reasons.
A lot of children are picky eaters in the sense that they only like a select number of foods. We all know people who simply aren’t willing to try new things, or don’t get excited about a food that is new or different to them.
The other kind of picky eater is one who cannot eat with others due to their select and limited number of food preferences. A child with this issue is twice as likely to suffer from social anxiety or depression in later life. As such, there is a distinction between when picky eating is a normal (but fussy) thing, and when it should be taken more seriously.
Anxiety-related food restriction requires more effort to manage than simple fussiness. Depending on the severity, you might need to consider medical intervention. But, for the average picky eater, whether they only eat buttered pasta or dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, there are a few ways around the issue.
How do I tackle the issue of picky eating?
If you find yourself with a picky eater on your hands, it’s essential that you don’t go down the path of making separate meals for them. Break this habit early by teaching them to appreciate a variety of tastes and textures. By accommodating picky eating, you normalize the behavior, which may result in health consequences later on.
Here are some fun strategies for overcoming picky eating!
Tip #1. Start the meal off with a smile
It’s a good idea to set some dinnertime rules. As the main issues we all have with picky eaters are the frowns and complaints, ask your children to say “thank you” before dinner begins. Have everyone describe something good about their day before you eat. By doing this, you start the meal on a positive note.
Some kids love soup. Especially when it’s made with a “magic wand” See my picks for best immersion blenders for soup.
Tip #2. The two-bite rule
Insist that the person, or persons, in question try at least two bites of their food before rejecting it. This encourages them to give new foods a fair chance.
Tip #3. Let them have some control
Picky eaters like to maintain some control over what they eat. As such, let them serve their own portion sizes. Get them to plan their own dinner menu once a week. This gives them the opportunity to branch out a little. Encourage them by offering advice and suggestions while still allowing them to make important decisions.
Tip #5. Glorify the vegetable
Vegetables are the often the unfortunate targets of picky eating habits. This is particularly concerning as it severely hinders nutritional intake. Try and make veggies the star of the show. When explaining what you’re making for dinner, say “cabbage and ham” instead of “ham and cabbage.” Experts suggest that children are more likely to approve of the cabbage in this way, as it appears more important than the ham.
Tip #6. Be patient
While you know breaking your child’s bad eating habits is for his or her own good, your picky eater may not understand your reasoning. Try to engage with your child and explain why it is important for them to eat a varied diet. Remember that transitions are always difficult. Getting your child off an unhealthy diet of buttered pasta to a balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables will take time and empathy.
Tip #7. Try out some new recipes
One of the best cookbooks on the market is Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution. This is more than just a cookbook. It’s full of tips and tricks on how to motivate your kids to eat healthily. You’ll discover how to get them to enjoy vegetables and grains necessary for their development, reduce sugary and fatty foods, and make subtle but beneficial alterations to their favorite meals to enhance nutrition.
The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution includes great recipes from a number of experts on getting children to eat a better diet—specifically the picky types. You’ll also find recipes from Missy Chase Lapine (The Sneaky Chef), Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers (So Easy Toddler Food), Jennifer Carden (Toddler Café), and many more.
This is a wonderful book for parents that shows you how to help your children develop a healthy palate that will benefit them for the rest of their life. Be patient and understanding and, with The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, you’ll be well-equipped to get your child off to a great start.
Whatever you cook, make sure the pan you use is healthy… Here’s my post on the healthiest non-stick pans.