Having a picky eater in your home can be a real challenge when it comes to eating healthy. Our kids all have certain favorite foods that they would eat every meal of every day if given the opportunity. However, our job as parents is to make sure that they are getting the best balanced diet possible and that their nibblings throughout the day are filled with healthy food. The truth is that every family has a picky eater at some point in time–some are just more challenging than others.
1. Winning the Power Plays
(the earlier, the better)
I can remember the specific moment that each of our kids tried the food battle. It was a defining moment at the toddler dinner table. Thankfully, Brian and I were both ready when each moment came because we had already decided what our parental stance would be on the food issue.
Our family food rules have always been the same since the beginning:
- You must try at least one bite of everything put in front of you before you leave the table. (I love to cook and am always introducing new meals/foods.)
- If you don’t want to eat what’s on your plate, you certainly don’t get seconds of anything else–or dessert, if that happens to be around that night (ie. Our kids would always eat all their pasta first and want more before eating the other things on their plate).
- If you choose not to follow these first two rules, then you don’t get to eat anything else.
Each of our kids battled to different degrees because of their personalities, but the test was the same: Who was gonna call the shots?
I think only our first two kids battled to the point of having to go to bed either missing dinner or not eating enough to get full. Was it hard to do that as a mom? Most definitely, but I also knew that I was training them to have good eating habits. I can guarantee you though that it only happened once. The next night at dinner, they gladly tried what was put in front of them and ate enough to get full. They knew mommy and daddy were serious and had a unified front. And your kids need to know the same.
If you have not been consistent with setting boundaries in the past, and if you and your husband have different views on this, it will be much harder to regain that ground. But I still don’t believe it’s impossible–keep reading on.
2. Leading by Example
I have a good friend whose family we had lived with over in Germany, and when we were over for dinner one night, I noticed her carefully placing the foods on her kid’s plate so that they did not touch each other. She shared how her child did not like any of their food touching on the plate. “Really?”, I asked. She went on to say that she did not blame them because she was the same way!
Our examples in the food arena are so important and powerful. As parents, we often need to be courageous and honest enough to look in the mirror and see if our own attitudes and behaviors about eating are being “taught” to our kids. And if we want to create healthier eating habits in our kids, then we need to do it for ourselves as well. If we want our kids to choose healthier snacks, then they can’t see us sitting down with a bag of chips!
Changing your nutritional course of action (esp with older kids) may need to come with an honest confession and a definite restarting place. “Hey kids, I know we have always eaten this way in the past, but today your mother and I are changing some things so that we can all be healthier….”
3. Reintroduce Rejected Foods Often
I know so many parents who have tried a single food with their kids only one time and then never try again, saying, “oh Timmy just didn’t like it, so I don’t bring that out anymore.”
Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’ve developed a taste for it”? Our tastes and preferences for different foods can change over time and with repitition. By reintroducing new foods, we can help our kids develop new tastes as well.
So, if you are trying to introduce healthier options, don’t give up too easily. Your kids may grow to love that new food someday!
4. Cravings can be a Real Physiological Issue
Does your child crave sweets (anything with added sugar), pasta, breads, and/or sweet fruits? Is this what they seem to grab for all the time? There are certain cravings that can feel uncontrollable, and it is not always a self-control issue.
It is always best to rule out the possibility of a yeast overgrowth if your child fits that description. Otherwise, your efforts at creating healthier habits will always feel like you’re pushing against a wall, and your child will grow more and more frustrated.
They will certainly thank you for it and be able to feel more “in control” of what they choose.
5. Supplementation is Crucial
As hard as it is for most kids to eat a balanced diet, it is even harder for those who are picky eaters. A USDA report shows that 85% of children eat fewer than the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies each day. So only 15% of American kids are getting the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals they need for proper development! And many of these nutrients are too vital to leave to chance; our kids need a supply of them every single day.
In a plethora of supplement manufacturers, it’s very easy to choose the wrong one. There are too many companies out there willing to cut corners in quality and clinical research. So, as a parent, it is super important to choose wisely.
In fact, I would argue that supplementation is the BEST starting place for a picky eater (and all kids, in general). When using the right foundational supplements, you can rest assured that they are getting a great nutritional boost while you continue to work on their food choices and habits one at a time.