Most of my kids are great at least trying all the food I make. When I make a dish that they may not like they are willing to try it and even eat most of it. I have been making a lot dishes with lots of color, vegetables, meats, fish, beans, sweet potatoes and avocados. Things that picky eaters might tend to say no to. I have one, very picky eater, that has vowed from an earlier age that he will not eat, “green things”. He even hates fruit! I have been on a mission for many years to help him to discover that vegetables and fruits can be good and here’s how:
1. I never force him to eat things he doesn’t like. I do insist on tasting. Many families might even call this the, “one bite rule.” If the meal has several different vegetables or other elements, he has to taste each one. I do this because he eats with his eyes and decides he doesn’t like things before he even knows how it tastes. All moms have been there, am I right? He will often look at a meal and say, “yucky” before he has even tasted it. When I insist on one taste, I have many times heard, “yummy”. However, the only way that we have gotten this to work in our family is trust. I don’t make him eat things he doesn’t like. So, if he tastes something and decides he really doesn’t like it, that’s where it ends. This could lead to a hungry kid later on, but I have done my duty in at least getting him to try the food. Before bed if he says he is hungry, I save dinner and tell him he has to eat his dinner. He oftentimes will not eat it. (sometimes he actually will). Having a very picky eater isn’t something that will be cured overnight and I don’t personally believe the common saying that kids will eat it if they are hungry enough.
2. Don’t let kids snack before dinner. This one is pretty obvious but my kids get into the pantry sometimes when I’m not around. It’s not something done intentionally, just something they naturally do when they are hungry. I try to be mindful and keep an eye out around an hour before dinner. When you’re hungry, food just tastes better. Hungry kids are more likely to eat what you make for dinner.
3. Cut vegetables up smaller or puree them into the meal. As I was chopping up vegetables the other day, it occurred to me, I chop my veggies up too big! I have never given it much thought. I guess I am always in a hurry, always trying to get dinner made quickly and that has led me to cut things up into large chunks. And I thought to myself, no wonder the little ones are intimidated by these. They are way too large. My mom, a wonderful cook, used to make a dish as I was growing up that had large chunks of tomatoes in it. I never liked it. But give me spaghetti sauce and I would be happy as a clam! You can probably find a lot of recipes that use purees in them. There are certain things that will pair well with each other. And the fun part is you can use baby food and add all kinds of different veggies to your dishes easily. Most of my kids love the squeeze fruit pouches and even my picky eater (who hates fruit) will devour the squeeze baby food fruit purees as snacks.
4. When serving salad, give them many different options for salad dressing. Set out all the bottles and let them pick and try a little sample of each on the side of their plate. We tried this the other night and it was a hit! My picky eater had a lot of fun trying each different dressing. It made me think I need to add some new dressings into the mix. I know many kids love ranch, and if that works for you, great! My kids actually don’t like ranch, which hasn’t made things easy on me. But, at least it keeps things interesting, haha. It’s great to give them a chance to experiment and see what they really like, as well. I was 18 before I ever tried different types of salad dressings. Up until that point, I had only tried ranch and Italian and I was convinced I only liked Italian.
5. Let your picky eater help make dinner. When they get to help, they will be proud of what they helped create and it will make eating much more fun. You can even go a step further and take them shopping for the meal ingredients. Let them help pick out the best avocado, help put the lettuce in the bag, which carrots should we get? Make it fun!
6. Leave a platter of veggies out before dinner. This goes against the, “no snacking before dinner” rule but it’s veggies! Hungry kids will start with veggies first and half the battle is won.
Helping picky eaters expand the foods they like is a tough battle! But it’s a valiant one. Keep up the good fight, mamas!