Frustrated about fighting your picky eater at home? I know exactly what you are going through. I have one of each. My oldest daughter loves to try new foods and meals are never an issue. My youngest is a totally different species. Foods can not touch each other on the plate. No herbs, or green stuff as she calls it, is allowed.
What she loved yesterday will not go down today und so weiter.
I don't want to cook different meals to satisfy every single family member and I certainly don't want to turn food into something we fight about so what to do?
Be creative - yes, it takes a little extra energy but it's worth it. Children's nutrition doesn't have to be frustrating. Consider some different strategies, depending on your child, to avoid power struggles and help the picky eater in your family eat a balanced diet.
1. Respect your child's appetite - or lack of one
Young children tend to eat only when they're hungry. If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to clean his or her plate. This may only ignite - or reinforce - a power struggle over food.
2. Stick to the routine
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Nix juice, milk and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat. And again - don't stock up on all the tempting and often unhealthy snacks - it will only lead to begging, fights, tears and most times giving in to save the peace in the house. If you don't have the Gold Fish, Pirate Booties, chips etc in your house, there is simply nothing to fight for!
3. Be patient with new foods
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Encourage your child by talking about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture - not whether it tastes good.
4. Make it fun
Serve veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner. By breakfast foods I am not thinking about cereals like Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops w/Marshmallows (the body is not happy on servings w/ 1 gram of protein and 14 grams of sugar) - absolutely NO - it's breakfast foods like scrambles eggs, frittata, hash browns, omelets, oatmeal etc. Lots of protein, not too many carbs and good fats.
5. Recruit your child's help
At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table. Yes, it takes a little longer to have the kids help out but is well worth the effort..and time. The kids learn to cook, they learn about flavors, textures and you can have fun conversations a long the way - it's a "win win".
Do your children refuse to try new foods? This is normal but can be frustrating for parents. Even though children commonly reject new foods, parents should not stop offering them. Children need a wide variety of foods to be well nourished, so it is important they learn to eat them.
Kids learn about new foods just by looking at them, smelling them and touching them. You might want to introduce your child to a new food before it's cooked.
If we continue to serve new foods in a positive way, children will usually learn to like them. But it may take 10 attempts or more. Do not force them to eat. If they know they can try it when they are ready, they will be more open to it.
Here are some things that may work in your family:
Eat together as a family (or at least as many as possible) so children can see parents and other family members eating and enjoying the food.
The "no thank you bite" rule. Try at least one bite before being allowed to say "No thank you". Don't turn this into a power struggle. If they know they can try it when they are ready, they will be more open to it. Just tell them that the kitchen is closed after dinner - you are not cooking more for the day. It's now or never...going hungry to bed a few times is not the end of the world! Don't let them fool you into making more meals.
Make up cute names for the food you prepare together - kids love hero names etc.
Shop with your kids - let them pick fruit and vegetables
Cook with your kids - have your kids help prepare the food - some kids give in to the "I made them..." and you will be surprised to see how greens like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, suddenly can become a favorite
Have a veggie night - edamame, hummus with veggies, mushroom burgers with cheese etc.
Hide the veggies...only for the toughest kids because you really want them to know what they are eating but... hide the veggies in smoothies or use pureed vegetables in everything from dumplings to quesadillas.
Make fruits and vegetables the easy option - no more 100 calorie bags of chips and other snacks - stock a kid-accessible shelf in the fridge with little bags of cut fruit and vegetables, applesauce and fruit cups.
Use fun gadgets - most kids nowadays love gadgets. Let the kids use a blender, juicer and food processor to make great smoothies with both fruits and vegetables. Just use proper supervision, of course.
And few other suggestions...
Get them while they're hungry
Offer new foods when your child is hungry and is not tired.
Let your child look at the food and touch it-that's how they learn about new things.
Offer the new food again in a couple days. It may take awhile, but eventually your child will start eating the new food.
Don't give up.
The important thing is to keep serving the food for the family to enjoy. One day your children will surprise you and begin eating the food as if they always have.
10 easy kid-friendly ideas for serving veggies and fruit
Fruit cones Combine a variety of chopped fresh or canned fruits in a bowl (grapes, apples, peaches, pineapple, melon, berries, etc.) Scoop into flat-bottom ice cream cones. Top with fruit flavored yogurt.
Berries Brrr Frozen berries make great edible ice cubes and help to quench thirst. . Add them to 100% fruit juice or water.
Banana split breakfast Spoon yogurt in the centre of a cereal bowl, and place banana halves on either side of the yogurt. Sprinkle the top with fresh blueberries, strawberries or fresh or canned pineapple and toasted oats cereal for whole grain crunch.
Stir fry wraps Wrap some leftover chicken or beef stir fry loaded with vegetables in a whole wheat tortilla. Serve hot with a tasty dipping sauce for a hand held meal.
Potato nachos Bake thin slices of regular or sweet potatoes until just tender. Top each slice with a small amount of salsa, chopped green onion and peppers. Top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake until cheese melts. For an Italian version, substitute tomato sauce for salsa and mozzarella for cheddar.
Cheese fondue (for the dairy lovers) A cheese and milk- based fondue is a great way to serve a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit - broccoli or cauliflower florets, grape tomatoes, zucchini chunks, potato wedges or apple and pear slices.
Smooth soup In large saucepan, combine frozen broccoli or any frozen vegetable combination on hand, with chopped potato and prepared chicken stock, simmer until veggies are tender. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese or croutons.
Awesome fruit dip Puree frozen fruits (peaches, strawberries, blueberries, mixed berries or tropical mix) and combine with vanilla yogurt.
Pizza Pitas Stuff mini whole grain whole wheat pitas with diced ham, shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar), sliced mushrooms and chopped peppers (red, green, yellow or orange). Top with pizza or tomato sauce and bake in oven or toaster oven until cheese melts. Optional - Serve with more sauce for dipping.
Simply just cut up some different fruits and vegetables and put on a plate and see what happens when the kids are exposed for a variety of colors and shapes. This is a perfect "after-school" snack and while doing homework. Add a few wholegrain crackers and/or some nuts or seeds.
And remember if you child only eat a few selected foods for a time being, its okay - Kids are not going to be serious malnourished just because they eat limited foods for a while. But never give up - make it fun and continue to introduce good healthy foods.
To avoid waste of left over fruit and veggies - read my "Waste Not" blog.