Making multiple meals at each meal time? No, thank you!
Listening to whining and complaining about what you’ve spent time preparing? No, thank you!
Plates of food left over after each meal? No, thank you!
These are sure signs of picky eaters and probably, a vexed mother.
I’m three for three on having good eaters who don’t fuss about eating and who aren’t picky at all. So, I’ll share with you how I’ve avoided picky eaters with a 4 year old, 2 1/2 year old, and 10 month old as well as some other helpful tips about feeding.
1.Use a Feeding Chart in the First Year
I make sure to stay aware and up to date with what I can introduce my baby to and when during his first year. As soon as a new food is a possibility, we try it. This helps new foods with different tastes and textures become part of baby’s life as early as possible and as often as possible. I definitely think this helps.
2. I Don’t Make Multiple Meals
What I have made for dinner is what’s for dinner. The same applies for breakfast and lunch. I am rarely ever serving just one food at a meal, so there is sure to be something everyone will like, even if one particular part of the meal is not their favorite. On top of this, I expect politeness and encourage the kids to try everything. As long as they have tried it and let me know kindly that they don’t care for it, I’m just fine with them eating what they do like of the meal.
There are only a couple items that each of my girls don’t love. And knowing that they have tried it each time it is on their plate is something I really appreciate. I don’t expect them, however, to eat what they truly don’t like. So, if I know there is something on the menu that one child really, truly, actually, has-tried-it-and-still-doesn’t-like-it dislikes, I simply don’t put that on that particular child’s plate and offer them plenty of the other options. That is just fine with me and is an area I can show respect for their preferences in.
All of this applies for my baby boy too, in some way. I don’t make a separate meal for him if at all possible. Of course this is after we’ve gone through the pureed food stage and he is on more solids. But I follow my chart of when I can intro new foods, as mentioned, and I feed him any part of our meal he can have. Slowly, he becomes able to eat everything the rest of the family is eating. He is almost 11 months and this morning he had eggs and toast with us for breakfast, then corn and bean salad and cheese for lunch, and shared our Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup served over rice. I don’t cut out the spices or separate much out for him. We make all our own seasonings (for fajitas, tacos, dressings (except our beloved Ranch packets that our families send us from home!), etc.) so it’s nothing that is full of preservatives. And we aren’t cooking with hot spices much at all because of all the little kids. But, these are all great foods for him and because I’ve always fed my babies what the rest of us are eating as soon as they are able, I believe we’ve really cut down on pickiness. This might actually be my biggest tip!
3. I Use Appropriate Serving Sizes for Little Ones
I don’t expect my children to eat a huge serving of any one thing. I think this helps when they see an appropriate portion in front of them. This also ensures I’m throwing less food away, which I hate doing! I want my children to appreciate the fact that they do not have to worry about having enough food, so we try not to be wasteful. And if my girlies ask for more of something, they need to eat it. They also may not ask for more of anything until they’ve eaten an appropriate amount of the other food on their plate. This is all about teaching them to ask for only what they are able to eat, not to be wasteful, and to do their best to eat what is in front of them.
4. I Do Not Make My Children Eat a Certain Amount
Women have forever worried that their children are not getting enough to eat. But those kids continue to grow, run around with energy, and do just fine. When you start to battle over how much food your children eat and that they finish everything on their plate, you are making the food a big deal and children may be more likely to resist. In fact, according to an article I read, 85% of parents say they interfere with their children’s eating, which is often detrimental. To avoid this, I give my children a small amount of each food item at the meal and allow them to ask for more if they’d like it. As mentioned, I ask that they eat an appropriate amount of the other food on their plate first though. And I’ve found that my kids eat more when they are hungry and less when they are not. They know how much food they need and I can respect that. If they choose to end a meal before they are full, they will feel the effects of that later and learn to make sure they eat all they need before they get down from the table. This is a necessary lesson in making good choices as well as allowing children to use their innate ability to moderate their own food intake, which they are quite capable of doing and sets them up for healthy eating later on. Finally, this is also where I will mention that I do not force my kids to eat a certain amount of fruit or vegetables at a meal. I really prefer to have a healthy side along with my main dish and the same rules apply to this fruit or veggie: I ask that they try everything that is on their plate and they can have more of something else they may like more as long as they’ve eaten a reasonable amount of everything else, including the fruit or veggie. Because this has always been part of their life, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. I’m also happy to stick with the fruits and veggies they like most to make this a win win for everyone.
5. I Do Stick To An Eating Routine
The big kids eat four, sometimes five, times a day. We wake up and have breakfast, then lunch, have a snack after nap time, and then eat dinner. I found a routine was an absolute necessity because my girls were hopping down from the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table and immediately asking for a snack after eating almost nothing. I was so confused and annoyed! I realized they like the idea of a snack better than a meal. So, we formed an eating routine and they have come to understand that food will not be offered other than at those times. The only exception is that if we have had an early breakfast, little tummies are growling, and lunch is an hour or more away, a mid morning snack is needed. I also have to keep an eye on my little two year old. She seems to have a really hard time if she gets too hungry so if she is crying about everything and giving me a lot of attitude, giving her a few pretzels and a slice of cheese or fruit makes everything all better!
6. We Make Healthy Snack Choices
Cucumbers are one of my kids’s favorite snacks! They also love them on the side of any main dish. The country we live in happens to have cucumbers out the wazoo, so we buy a few kilos every week and go through them easily. Because my kids love them, I capitalize on it and offer cucumbers all the time! They also think pears and apples are a sweet treat and love them at snack time. Of course we also eat pretzels and homemade popcorn for snack time often, but we regularly have a fruit or veggie as well. I try to think about what will give them energy and keep them fueled until dinner time. And the fact is, if you don’t offer tons of crackers or lots of sugary snacks, or you start to say no to these requests, healthy snacks will become a habit and everyone’s health and attitude will benefit from that. I don’t think it’s ever too late to make a change in this area, even though you may get some grumpy responses when you initially make snack time healthier.
These are the six ways I have shaped my children’s eating habits. While some of these things I have been doing since my first was taking her first bites, others are changes I’ve made as recently as a year and a half ago. So, take what is helpful and start applying it to help your children be less picky and help them make good food choices!