Dealing with picky eaters is one of the most frustrating experiences for parents or any caregiver. So whenever I present My Food Notebook at parenting conferences or schools, I make sure I let the audience know my hidden secret: I have a picky eater, too. Sometimes, all three of my children are picky eaters!
But instead of just arguing with my children all the time I decided to change my approach. (This isn’t the first time I’ve had to make some parenting adjustments.) Part of my adjustment included creating My Food Notebook but it also included changing how food is served our house.
In order to work with my picky eater (and I always use the phrase “work with” because it is work that you have to do together), I have done a lot of reading and talked to a lot of other parents. From all that reading and talking I’ve put together a simple list of tips that help parents work with their picky eaters.
Five tips for picky eaters
1. Senses – Remember your picky eater child doesn’t just shovel food into their mouth. They smell the food, see the food, often touch the food. And don’t forget how some food sounds when it squishes, splats or hits the plate with a thud. I try to pay attention to how food triggers my picky eater’s senses. I know he prefers things that are cubed or in distinct pieces and can’t handle anything too mushy.
2. Shopping – For some of us, grocery store time is the only time we get alone. But make sure you take your picky eater grocery shopping so your child can see the food you are selecting. Not too many people really like mystery food that just appears on their plate.
3. Cooking – It’s not possible in my house to have my kids help me with every dinner, but I try to get my children (all of them, because each of them is picky about one thing or another) involved in cooking. This is important for breakfast and lunch, too, not just dinner. But seeing how the food looks at the store, bringing it home and preparing it, watching it transform on the stovetop or in the oven, helps my children and many children, take that first bite at the table. Not only are they more familiar with the food but they are also proud of their creation.
4. Gardening – Just like grocery shopping, being there when the food is acquired can help many children try something new. Imagine how they might feel about a new food that they have grown and cared for from a tiny seed, watched it blossom and then produce its fruit – it’s like magic! That is how I encouraged my pickiest eater to try his first eggplant. Even a small home has space for some small fruit and vegetable plants.
5. Role model – You have to eat it yourself, too. It’s as simple as that. You can’t ask them to eat it if you’re not eating it, too.
Once you’ve started using these tips to work with your picky eater, don’t forget to keep track of the foods they’ve tried in your very own copy of My Food Notebook. And let us know what foods become favorites – or not.
Check out MORE tips for picky eaters here!