Do you have a picky eater? Is dinner time the most stressful time of the day? Are you cooking four different meals for each member in your family?
My youngest use to be a picky eater! I would cook several different dinners to appeal to everyone’s tastes. Many dinners use to end with someone crying — either me or my daughter. My two girls are 7 and 9. I can happily say that I cook one dinner now and enjoy family dinners (most of the time). I now have two adventurous eaters.
Parenting is hard. Feeding our kids, I think, is one of the most challenging jobs we have as a parent. I’d love to share 3 simple tips to help end the picky eater struggle so many of us encounter during our parenting journey. My hope is these 3 simple tips will help make meal times a little easier and a little more enjoyable for everyone.
Tip 1: Allow 2 to 3 hours between snack and the next meal.
Are your kids coming to the dinner table hungry? How much time is in between their last snack and dinner? If they aren’t coming to the table hungry, then they won’t be willing to try foods. And they won’t have the opportunity to experience true hunger.
If your kids are having a snack at 3:30 when they get home from school, try to hold off on food again until dinner between 5:30 and 6:30pm.
Does that seem like too long a break? Make sure their snack is filling enough so they aren’t starving an hour later. Provide a snack, or a mini meal, with protein, fiber, and healthy fat that will sustain them until dinner.
A few after school snack ideas:
- apples and nut butter
- hummus, crackers, carrots, and grapes
- plain yogurt, with blueberries, and low sugar granola.
I tend to grab a plate or a muffin tin, on occasion, and throw on cut up fruits and veggies, cheese, nuts, crackers, and dip. All these mini meals are balanced, and provide protein, fiber and fat to help keep their blood sugar balance and help keep them satisfied until dinner.
Tip 2: Try breaking your meal into 2 courses, serving veggies first and then the rest of the meal 5 or 10 minutes after presenting veggies on the table.
If they do get hungry before dinner, I like serving veggies as an appetizer. If they are really as starving as they say, they will eat the veggies. Make the plate of veggies colorful and display them in a fun way. This may make the veggies even more appealing, especially for the little ones. Dip always helps make veggies a little more tasty too.
Tip 3: Help kids change their mindset around food.
I have heard many times from my students that they are picky eaters so they don’t like vegetables. Being a picky eater has become part of their identity. Help them shift their mindset by saying phrases like “We are stilling learning to like a variety of foods” or “ I don’t like broccoli YET but maybe I will later.” These phrases when practiced overtime will help kids shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Avoid using the term picky eater around your kids.
I often remind myself that eating a variety of healthy foods doesn’t come naturally. It needs to be taught and it takes time. We are all still learning together. Sharing stories of foods that you use to not like and now enjoy is great to help reinforce this. Maybe they don’t like broccoli yet but they may like it in the future.
Put it all together with Kids in the Kitchen
During my kids in the kitchen virtual cooking classes, I love showing kids that even though they may not like spinach plain there are so many ways to eat spinach. We just need to find the way we will enjoy it. For example, we make spinach chocolate chip muffins, spinach pancakes, spinach French toast, spinach chopped up in spaghetti sauce, spinach on pizza, etc. I love seeing their eyes open wide, with a strange look on their face when I tell them we are going to put spinach in our muffins! And the great thing is everyone loves them and finds a way they now enjoy spinach, if they didn’t already before.
Teaching children to love their veggies and enjoy a wide variety of whole foods is an on- going processes. Check out Need Help with Picky Eaters? 10 Tips to Help Shape Children’s Tates for other ideas. If you are looking for more guidance, inspiration, accountability, and more tools to add to your parent toolbox, my Raising Healthy Eaters with Misa, 3-week, online, self- guided course starts Monday, January 10! For more information please go to Misa’s Clean Kitchen.
It would be an honor to help you and your family make small, sustainable changes, creating a lifetime of healthy habits. Cheers to 2022!