I’ll admit it, my kids were picky eaters.
When my daughter was little, all she wanted to eat was stew or soup. But not any soup, this one soup my grandma made her. One specific soup.
I didn’t mind too much…both options had carbs, protein and veggies.
Then my son came along. He got into the habit of eating chicken nuggets. Not even chicken tenders made with real chicken. Like frozen crappy nuggets. Luckily he didnt yet know what McDonald’s was but yeah, not a proud mommy moment for me. He does have multiple food allergies, but I know…not a good excuse.
It was so bad that when he was 2, we went to Disneyland and I had to heat and pack chicken nuggets each day cause he just wouldn’t eat anything else, even chicken tenders within the park.
If you also have a picky eater, you know the struggle. You’re torn between getting them to eat something else, and just getting them to eat. And then there’s the comments and “advice” from well-meaning friends and family.
They just don’t understand that you’ve tried. That there really ARE days your kid would rather starve than eat something else. While I am in the camp of “they will most likely outgrow the pickiness” and it’s not such a huge deal, you can help the process along.
Tips For Handling a Picky Eater
First things first, rule out anything other than true pickiness.
The main thing that affects what kids will and won’t eat is an aversion to textures. This falls under a sensory issue, not a pickiness thing. Some kids won’t eat mushy food like mashed potatoes or applesauce but will eat roasted potatoes or apples. Some won’t eat loose corn but on the cob is okay. With a highly sensitive child, this is something that’s pretty likely.
After ruling out a sensory issue and assuming it really is pickiness, here are some tips that can help you get over the pickiness stage quicker.
Don’t push too hard. I know, you really want her to eat. But forcing a picky child to eat when she doesn’t want to or when she isn’t even hungry will only fuel a mealtime battle you don’t want to get caught up in.
Instead, make sure your child isn’t snacking unnecessarily between meals (but do let her snack!) and offer small portions of everything. I can tell you from experience that “starving them and they’ll eventually eat whatever you serve” does NOT work.
Stick to a mealtime routine. Serving meals at the same time each day can really help a picky eater. Keep snacks routine as well. Some kids won’t eat full meals. In this case, healthy, well-balanced snacks work well.
Provide choices. Some mealtime battles come down to having some control. Allow your child to pick the foods they eat, which limitations of course. Offer a choice between 2 items, both of which you approve of.
Make eating fun. Cut food into fun shapes. Serve them with delicious dips. Make meals colorful. Appeal to your child’s personality and likes when it comes to serving food.
Get creative. I also had to get creative with packed lunches. Especially for my daughter. There were days in Kindergarten where she’s come home and the food I packed for her wasn’t even touched. The thought of my daughter not eating anything for most of the day broke my heart.
So I had to get creative with packed lunches.
Instead of a large meal, I packed multiple, little things in a bento-style box like this one.
Alternatively, I’d use a regular plastic container and separate the food using reusable silicone baking cups.
Sandwiches got cut up into shapes that she loved using cute food cutters like these.
Rice balls got turned into cute animals. We mostly used this panda one.
Was it a pain in the ass to have to go through all this trouble to make lunch? Hell yes! Did it get them to eat? You betcha!
To be honest, it didn’t last too long. Luckily, they both came around and started liking sandwiches. Easy peasy.
Be patient. Like I said, the pickiness didn’t last. My son is still a little particular but it’s no longer a battle. My daughter tries most foods and loves things like shrimp and cauliflower.
If your kids aren’t quite there yet, don’t worry. Young children often take awhile to come around. Keep trying. There may even be some days your kids will try something and like it, only to reject it the next time you serve it. Talk about the shape, the smell, the color of the food. Get your kids excited about something other than the taste.
Mealtime can definitely be a struggle when you have a picky child. Most kids eventually grow out of the pickiness. Luckily you can help the process along, and reduce some of the food battles, with these tips.