10 sneaky (yet brilliant) tricks to try if your child is a picky eater
Dealing with a picky eater can be BEYOND frustrating.
You know, when you have spent the best part of your wages on healthy, organic food, then gone to great lengths to cook, mash, steam, puré or even spiralize, serving up the most nutritious fare known to man. Only to be met with a refusal to taste even One. Little. Bit.
But all is (luckily) not lost. It might just take a bit of clever thinking or some crafty trickery to get them to eat. Here are some GREAT (tested in the trenches!) tips to try out:
1. Involve them up-front in the shopping part of the process. Yeah, sure kids love to help cook the food too, but making them help you pick things out at the ground level — the supermarket, the farmer’s market — is a much lower maintenance (and a much less messy) activity than having them stirring or chopping. But, by all means, do that too if you have the patience!
2. Make sure there’s always something familiar on the plate. This is like the comfort blanket equivalent in food. Like, if you serve a whole new pasta recipe or a fish dish they have never eaten before, make sure the potatoes or rice or other vegetables are cooked and served like they have eaten them before. It makes the new bits seem less scary, see?
3. Let go of your end of the emotional rope. You can't force your child to do anything, especially eat, so just stop trying. Simply offer up nutritious, varied foods—and eat them yourself. They can have theirs, or not, but the most important bit is that you are showing them how.
4. Re-brand, re-spin and re-package for all it is worth. Name dishes after favorite TV shows (Malibu Barbie Smoothie, anyone?), use funny made-up names (Monster Peas, Cloud Fluff Potatoes) and think of new ways to prepare and serve up food. Sandwiches taste YUM if you grill them in your waffle iron, and fruit can be cut up into cute little shapes (which seem to make them taste that much better too!)
5. Keeping up with the Joneses (or Sophie down the road). There is nothing like a little competition to make you kids eat more. So when my 7-year-old refuses her broccoli and I casually mention that her friend down the road is SO good at eating her veggies (and how this will make her grow big and strong), let's just say it totally makes her tackle those broccoli bits with a little more gusto.
6. Point and cook. If you are cooking from cookbooks or blogs, have the kids flip through the pages or scroll through the slideshows, and tell them to point to what looks good. Naturally, you run the risk of it not looking exactly like the picture, but at least their heads are in the right place when they sit down.
7. The rule of the plate-ground: Salmon and salad take turns. On a play date or at the playground, taking turns is fair. And guess what? You can totally transfer the concept to your kids' plates too! She shouldn’t keep shoveling the meatballs and rice if broccoli has not yet had a turn. That’s not fair to the broccoli, which needs a chance to nourish her body, too.
8. Adventure eating. (We also do Treasure Hunt Tidying, by the way, it's amazing how exciting you can make ANYTHING by turning it into an adventure or a treasure hunt!). This type of food trickery works by me dishing out a little reward (sticker on a chart) for every new food my kids try. Easy and effective.
9. Reverse psychology is one of parenthood's great weapons. It is especially effective for kids when they are between two to three (before they figure out what you are doing, in other words). Just tell them how they are NOT allowed to eat a certain item of food on their plate, and then turn around and pretend you are busy doing something else. And, just like they do the opposite of what you want at other times, be sure they will stuff the forbidden foods into their mouths while you are not looking.
10. Never answer when they ask “What’s for dinner?” Especially if it’s something new. Just repeat these words: "I don't know yet." Giving kids time to think about a dish that they potentially hate or that is just downright mysterious gives them a window to formulate an argument against it. They're clever little buggers, aren't they. Repeat after me: "I don't know what's for dinner yet."
Do YOU have a picky eater in your family? Have you got any great tips to share? Send me an e-mail at Trine.Jensen@HerFamily.ie