The Battle of the Picky Eater
I’ve been struggling with picky eaters ever since my children outgrew Gerber’s fabulous products. My kids loved vegetables and meats when they at baby food, but now if it’s not in chicken nugget or pizza form, they won’t touch it. What happened? Wait…forget what happened, what do I do now that they won’t eat anything that’s remotely outside McDonald’s menu choices? Every meal is a battle. I dread cooking dinner most because that’s when all the more adult entrees and side items usually debut. Fruit, thankfully, is no problem. They’ll eat fruit until the cows come home. But if it isn’t a hot dog or a bowl of mac’ n cheese…they aren’t interested. I feel it my duty to make my children realize that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches do not make the world go round.
Take it or Leave it
We have two choices for dinner, take it or leave it. It’s tempting, some nights, to whip up a grilled cheese for the kids because the roast chicken and vegetables I’m preparing will not please them. But don’t do that. Everyone gets served the same plate and you eat what you eat. I’m not horribly cruel. I never serve liver and onions or haggis, so they get little sympathy from me. And when I branch out to new dishes, I keep something familiar on the plate so they have choices. So there’s little excuse to push the full plate away without touching something. That doesn’t prevent them from doing so, however.
Packing lunches is easy, except for the carrot/celery sticks. Breakfast is usually a breeze…they’ll eat most anything, pancakes to scrambled eggs…as long as I don’t dare add tomato to the eggs. Thank God for spaghetti sauce…but even one child isn’t happy unless her noodles are plain or perhaps with butter. This isn’t a battle, it’s a war. And I’ve seen commercials for the kids’ nutritional supplement drinks. I just can’t stoop to that level. If I do, they win. Wouldn’t anyone rather drink a milkshake-like item than eat broccoli?
I think the answer is: don’t give up, never surrender, never back down! Apparently whether I like it or not I have to continue to fight the good fight lest my children eat nothing but bread, pasta, and fruit the rest of their lives. So here’s some tips to foster successful balanced diet eating for them in the mean time.
You Pick It
We don’t have much room for a garden in our yard, but when we go to the grocery store or farmer’s market I let them look around at all the veggies to see what catches their interest. After our cart is full of fruit I make them circle back to choose a vegetable they’ll promise to try when I prepare it. Moreover, I ask them what way they would prefer the veggie prepared so they are more inclined to try it. I don’t mind adding a little cinnamon to their sweet potato, or a pat of margarine to their peas. Hey, it’s a start.
I’m my kids’ number one cheerleader when we dine together. I emphasize how I eat my meal, entirely as I do so. I show them what I do if there are things on my plate I don’t really want or like. There’s nothing wrong with blending the peas into the mashed potatoes, as long as it makes it into your belly. I remind them how good their body will feel if they eat their veggies and protein. I relate it to super heroes. I assure them they will hear their bellies growl in class if they don’t finish breakfast before heading to school.
A Little Help Here
I try to have my kids cook/prepare meals with me. I’ve noticed they’re more inclined to eat if they can plan something to look forward to consuming after it’s served. It gives them a feeling of control…peas, not carrots tonight, California burgers, not tuna salad for lunch. It also overturns their “What’s for dinner?” back to them to show them how much effort it takes to make a meal in the first place.
Misery Hates Company
Invite their friends or some family over to the meal. Your kids might be more inclined to eat up if others they know and love are doing the same. It helps convince them it’s not just Mom or Dad who believes in proper nutrition. Plus company might distract them with visiting over the meal and they’ll converse right through their side salad. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
Obviously no dessert if you don’t eat your meal. I can’t make you eat your entrée and sides, but no treats until you do. This trick doesn’t faze my kids any more because they know breakfast will be something they like. But it does make my point when I eat my dessert right in front of them. And some days I serve the dinner at breakfast. They are never happy when I do this, and usually don’t eat it, but I can tell they’re seeing my point. Since I can’t starve them, I make sure breakfast after a night where little to no dinner was consumed is intentionally healthy. No Pop-Tarts or sugary cereal; they can have plain Cheerios and fruit instead.
If they didn’t eat most of their previous meal, I rarely give them a snack. If we’re home, I offer them their meal leftovers as the snack. If we’re traveling and they ask for a lollipop at the bank, I consider if their last meal was eaten, even if they’re behavior out has been worthy of the lollipop. I make the issue relatable so they can understand why I’m insisting they eat, and eat well.
I know these tips will help teach my kids the value of healthy, balanced eating. I also know this life lesson will take time and that I should not get discouraged if I don’t succeed in my mission every day. Stay strong and keep at it…you’re kids are worth the effort.