Have you been blessed by picky eaters? Do you often wonder if it’s revenge? Listen in as we tackle all things kids, food and mealtime!
Kids are fun because they are so easy to feed…said no one ever. At some point in your parenthood, you will tackle struggles with food. Even with the best eaters, and here’s why!
Melanie is a stay at home twin mom to 4 kids. She is no stranger to chaos and overwhelm. Her meal planning system and ability to recognize that everyone meal plans differently helps her find solutions for busy, stressed out moms.
Who is a Picky Eater?
We hear this term a ton, but what does it really mean? Overall, I think that the picky eater label is put on any child that doesn’t just eat what is given to them. And much of the time, this doesn’t happen.
While this term is generally associated with kids, I think that to some extent, we all have food preferences. So why do we get so stressed out when our kids have them?
The wide spectrum with kids and food
In general, the term picky eater is used when a kid refuses food often, especially new foods, and tends to want to eat the same thing over and over. Adults can be labeled picky as well.
But is there a magic number that crosses the picky eating threshold? The range tends to spread wide, and it’s hard to pin point where exactly that is. It also is associated with age, peaking with toddlers and preschool age children, but older kids can be labeled as picky eaters too.
At some point, we need to accept that some thing are just food preferences and not refused to simply be a brat.
Reasons Kids are Picky Eaters
When you are in the depths of feeding your young kids, you get to a point where you think they are simply trying to kill you with their antics. But the truth is, they aren’t.
While there is no universal reason for picky eating, the list of causes goes on:
- Lack of offering a variety of food
- Issues with texture
- Social influence
- Parents trying to control meals
The first thing to remember is that it is totally normal for kids to be choosy with food. And showing anxiety over it, and trying to control the situation will just make it worse.
Can you stop your child from being picky?
Unless your child is so picky that they develop nutritional issues (rare but it happens), then freaking out is not warranted.
Most of the time, your child’s food preferences aren’t necessarily about the food itself, but instead it can be a control issue that starts with being picky about the food.
Kids don’t control much in their life. We as parents make so many decisions for them. But food, and eating itself, is something they can actually control because we cannot force them to eat.
As kids grow, they are learning how to control their bodies and world around them. Part of that is eating. We as parents decided when they eat, what they eat, how often they eat, etc.
We have pressure around us to “do it right” and kids can sense this. They quickly realize that eating is important. Which is the trigger for a power struggle.
So learning to step out of that power struggle is the key to helping your picky eater.
Tips to Help Mealtimes Get Easier
Since picky eating tends to center around power struggles, focusing on that is a good start to helping mealtimes be less stressful. Here is a list of all of our strategies that may work (or not because you know, kids):
- Allow your kids to help pick out food to buy
- Have kids help prepare meals
- Offer a variety of choices with meals
- Talk about the different aspects of foods from color to texture
- Serve the same meals to everyone in the family so they see everyone trying and eating together
- Have mealtime be a happy environment (if there is stress, kids can begin associating stress to food)
- Keep the emotion out of eating, even the positive emotion (meaning don’t celebrate when they try things or reward them for it, but keep it neutral and instead keep the positive emotions for the taste, smell, etc of the food itself)
- Always have a food you know they like with each meal
- Don’t offer more than one new food at a time
- Lower your expectations
- Serve small portions, it helps them be less overwhelmed
- Don’t require them to sit if they don’t want to
- Have conversations as they eat to keep them involved
- Deconstruct meals, serve the simple option with other ingredients as sides
Dinner Ideas for Picky Eaters
If you’re at a loss for what to feed your picky eater, here are some ideas on where to start:
- Foods without too many spices and seasonings, like pastas without sauce or vegetables simply cooked with plain or a little bit of salt
- Things without a lot of ingredients, like plain grilled cheese or burritos and serve things like veggies or fruit they like on the side
- Build your own pizza night so everyone can pick the toppings they like
- Taco bars so everyone can pick their own fillings
- Snack/appetizer meals
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