Blog, Parent Tips, Picky Eaters

Dinnertime Battles: Five Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

“I don’t like this!” “I won’t eat that!” Anyone who has ever dealt with a picky eater knows how these complaints can make mealtime miserable for everyone.  End the dinnertime battles with these strategies to encourage picky eaters to pick up their forks and put down the resistance!

  1.    Limit Choices. Giving little folks multiple options can seem like a good idea when it comes to meal time complaints, and it can be, but giving too many choices can actually make things so overwhelming that it is hard for children to make a choice.  Instead, offer just a couple of choices that stay within your nutritional goals for your children and fall within the choices you are already preparing. This strategy gives your child a sense of control without overwhelming him with too many choices.
  2.    Keep the Big Goal in Focus. Don’t let little ones distract you from your main goal of getting nutrients into your kiddos. Diverting your attention over whether their entire plate is clean can create extra conflict and distract you from your ultimate goal. Choose your primary goal and don’t let superfluous details like a ‘clean plate award’ distract you.
  3.    Consider Modifications. No parent wants to become a short order cook, but sometimes it is possible to modify what your little ones eat without much added effort.  For example, if fajitas are too spicy for your picky diner’s palate, separate some of the ingredients you are cooking prior to seasoning for those who prefer plain. Your child is still eating what the rest of the family is eating, but in a manner more appealing to him or her.
  4.    Use Guidelines to Give Control. If a power struggle is behind the picky preferences, set guidelines from which your child can choose his options. For example, he or she needs to eat a cup’s worth of vegetables, but he or she can fill that cup up with any of the available vegetables he chooses.
  5.    Use Natural Consequences. Punishing a child over food choices can set a bad precedent for later in life, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t let natural consequences take effect. A conversation explaining the natural consequences of picky eating might sound like this, “I’m sorry you’re missing out on this grilled chicken kebob tonight, but I’m sure tomorrow morning’s oatmeal will taste extra good to you. If you change your mind, your dinner is right here.”
  6.    Establish Some Non-Negotiables. Even as adults, there are some foods we just don’t like. If there are some foods your child genuinely doesn’t care for after tasting them, respect that choice. Seeing that you respect his preferences will help him build a trusting relationship with you at the dinner table.

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