Do you struggle at the dinner table with picky eaters?
If you’re like most any other moms, your answer might be “yes” and “please help me!”
When I was growing up, I was the pickiest eater EVER. I would literally fall asleep at the dinner table. Put a green bean in my face and it was instant rebellion. It’s funny how we forget about our own personal experiences when we have children of our own and feel like we have lost control of them and don’t know what to do!
When my first daughter was a toddler, I fed her the foods I knew she liked the best. Don’t like green beans? No problem- here are your favorite sweet potatoes instead. However, by doing this, I was reinforcing that SHE made the decisions, that she was in control. I also amped up her sweet tooth. Throughout the years, I played short-order cook and did my grocery shopping around what she liked.
Years later when I met my husband and his children (now my stepchildren, two in fact!), I learned a new way to deal with the daily meal struggle. Now, my husband is from France, where kids DO NOT control the dinner table. They eat what they are given and grow up eating a very wide variety of foods.
By learning what he had done with his children (who are far from picky eaters), I was able to get my own kids to open up to new foods and end the battle with picky eaters.
Here are some tips on what I call “The French Method” of ending picking eating:
1. Don’t Stress Out
By stressing out, you will stress them out. They will associate mealtime as being a negative experience. Having a meal together should be enjoyable for everyone. You’ve been working hard all day and maybe you haven’t seen each other much. The best way to influence a child to eat something new is by making it an enjoyable experience.
2. Don’t Be A Hypocrite
Too many times have I heard, “my kids is such a picky eater, he never eats his veggies.” But are you eating your veggies? If you want your child to eat healthy, you have to be a role model and eat healthy yourself.
3. Pass Over Some Control
I know it sounds like a counterintuitive thing to do, but kids like to feel like they are the ones making the decisions. They’re little Napoleons, control-freaks. The more you tell them to do something, the more they will want to rebel. Let them know that it’s their decision whether or not they want to eat foods that will help them become healthy and strong. Don’t force it. If they still don’t eat it, just remove the plate and let them know that there’s nothing else to eat until the next meal. And don’t cave in with snacks later on! They aren’t going to die of starvation over missing out on one meal.
4. Let Them Participate
How many times have your kids asked if they could help you in the kitchen and you turned them away because you didn’t want the hassle? A great way to get them to try something new is to ask them to pick out something new that they found in the grocery store, take it home, and let them help you prepare it. It will spark their interest and make them feel like it was their decision.
5. Put It On Their Plate, Even If It Sits There
The more kids are exposed to a new food, the more likely they will try it. Put it on their plate even if you are 99% sure they won’t eat it. Just put a little bit. Eventually, the shock of asparagus on their plate will wear off and they won’t see it as intimidating.
6. Don’t Play Short-Order Cook
No matter how tempted you are to make something you know they like just to avoid the disappointment of them not liking something else, don’t give in. Once they realize that what is served for dinner is all there is and will be, they will learn to eat to avoid being hungry later.
7. Cut Back On Snacks
Kids need to eat in-between the standard 3 meals a day (but 5-6 smaller meals a day is better!). However, be careful of snack options. Loading up on juice or milk before dinner will only lead to kids who won’t eat their meals. It’s best to stick to water and whole veggies and fruits (carrots with dip, an apple, etc).
Keep in mind that picky eating doesn’t end instantly. It takes time and patience. Just stick to your guns, stay calm, and follow these tips. You’ll find that meal times will be easier, more enjoyable, and will lead to healthier habits.
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