A question I get all the time is, “How do you get your children to eat so well?” As toddlers my children enjoyed foods like salmon, beets, spinach, and pork. Today as teenagers they eat all kinds of international cuisines and even try odd foods like goat and alligator! Many parents struggle with picky eaters. Here are a few ideas to get your young ones eating more of the foods you desire them to eat:
attitude – Your attitude means everything! We never made a big deal out of new foods to try. Instead, we’d simply serve dinner as usual without comment. Our children were used to constantly trying new things, and rarely questioned what was put down in front of them. They simply started eating as we did.
never say “you wont like this” – Oh my goodness, never use those words or anything similar! Going along with the suggestion above, try to stay positive about new foods and serve them without hesitation.
start early and squish it – Once we introduced all the major food types (to be sure there were no allergies) we started feeding the children everything we were eating. By using a food mill we squished up basically anything and everything. Add a little water to chicken and squish it up. Same with veggies, fruits, soups, etc. Our babies ate the same meals we did. We rarely bought baby food and saved tons of money as a result. This didn’t require any extra baby-food-making time either. Which leads me to…
parents have to be willing to eat, too – Are you or your spouse a picky eater? If you want your children to try new foods then you might want to give them a shot, too! Children love to look to parents as role models. Try not to show your dislike too dramatically when you don’t care to eat something. Which reminds me…
try not to use the words “I don’t like it” – Rather, we asked our children to say “I don’t care for this, thank you.” First, it sounds more polite – especially when you are the guests of friends or family, and second it helps prevent a negative, complaining attitude about food.
never feed them junk at home – don’t buy mac-n-cheese in a box, chicken nuggets, or hot dogs. Avoid convenience foods. Stick to as healthy a diet as possible using fresh meats, dairy, and produce. You’ll save money this way and trust me, they will not be deprived! Why not? Because when you go to Little Jimmy’s birthday party, Grandma’s house, or the next class field trip there will be plenty of hot dogs and chicken nuggets. I promise your children will never miss out on these things if you don’t serve them at home. P.S. we used most breakfast cereals as treats here, not breakfast.
order off the adult menu – What do you always see on the kid’s menu? Hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, chicken tenders, and the likes. If they’re too young, just have them share some of your meal, and if they’re not – order them a real adult meal and take the leftovers home for tomorrow!
never cook two meals – Serving pork chops for dinner? If your child won’t eat, don’t cook a separate meal just for them. Take note of meals they absolutely do not care for and perhaps serve a healthy side dish next time that will substitute for the protein they don’t enjoy. But don’t take a box of mac-n-cheese out of the pantry and make a whole different meal for them!
don’t cave in when it comes to dessert – If your child refuses to eat dinner, tell them they may make that decision, but there will be no dessert afterward. It’s so easy for a child to ignore their meal knowing they will have cake later! Even if your dessert is an apple cut up on a plate, try not to cave in.
teach them to cook – Involve your children as much as possible in the planning and cooking of meals. Even little ones can hand you items as you cook or help set a table. Older children can learn how to prepare a meal with a protein, vegetable, and carb, and they can also learn how much each meal costs to prepare.
try new meals and don’t give up on old ones – I try new meals every week. The Internet has so many recipes to try I could make a new one every day and still never run out! Don’t give up on meals that your child didn’t like the first time around. They say (whoever they are!) that tastes change as a child grows. Maybe if your child didn’t like grilled salmon, you might try serving it in a lime-honey glaze next time. Keep a list of meals your whole family enjoys and mix in these tried-and-true ones with new and exciting meals. See a cool post on that here.
smaller portions – I’m not a Food Waster. I just can’t throw it out. Start off with smaller portions of food when trying something new. Children can always come back for seconds and mine almost always did.
Do you have other suggestions? Leave comments below. Happy eating!