Picky Eaters: Some Suggestions

“What should I do about my child, he is SUCH a picky eater!”

I hear this a lot in the office.  Parents are struggling to find foods that their child will eat.  Parents cooking several meals every night, one for their child(ren) and one for themselves.

This is a mistake.  Don’t go there.  Just don’t.

When I have a parent struggling with a picky eater, it is exactly that.  A struggle.  A battle.  A fight for control.  The parent trying to control what their child eats.  And the child fighting to control ANYTHING he or she can.

My absolute best suggestion for this situation is to take the fight out of it.  Give the child choices from the time the child can communicate.  Let your child control SOMETHING.  Do you want the red bowl or the blue bowl?  How about the Mickey Mouse plate or the Cars plate?  Do you want to try eating at the table like a big boy or do you want to stay in the high chair?  Straw cup or sippy cup?

As your child gets bigger let them take more control.  Ask for help with meal planning.  Should Daddy put the corn on the grill or should we cook it on the stove?  Do you think green peas or green beans sound better tonight?  Especially if it’s a special dinner like Thanksgiving, simple tasks give children a role to play and something to brag about over dinner (“Mommy let me stir the soup into the green beans AND I got to put the onions on top!”)  Let them say how much of each item they want on their plate.  Not WHETHER they want it, but how much:  a little or a lot.

Taking your children to a farmer’s market in the summer and exploring all the really cool and unusual foods is a way to trigger interest in food as well.  Ever had muskmelon?  I tried it for the first time at forty-two.  My six-year-old loves it.  We found it at the farmer’s market and it was love at first sample 🙂

What do you do if you have a bigger picky eater?  Suppose your child is twelve and still has only five or six foods on the approved list?  That’s a tough one.  One of the best suggestions I’ve ever read is to have your child take charge of one meal per week.  From meal planning (within limits) to making a list to shopping to cooking (with help), making one meal per week is a great way to expose children to new foods and encourage them to be more adventurous with food.

There are lots of recipe sites and apps out there but my favorite is allrecipes.com. It’s easy to pick an ingredient and search for options.  Sure it’s a lot of work to help a tween plan, shop for and cook an entire meal, but they have to learn this skill sometime!  After a few weeks I think Mom and Dad will enjoy a dinner “off” once a week, and your child will have a new skill they can be very proud of.

PS – I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything and Jim and Charles Fay’s Love and Logic series of parenting books, which have many very helpful suggestions for curing picky eater syndrome.

QUESTION:  Can you add more suggestions for helping parents with their picky eaters?

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