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When raising my Swillers (Strong-Willers), I picked the brains of seasoned moms – especially for tips for picky eaters. Read these tips for picky eaters, choose a few tips to try, and start saving your dinnertime sanity.
Before I do that though, sign up for the free online event this week, Raising Adventurous Eaters: 7 Proven Strategies to End Mealtime Madness and Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy Food (even if they’re picky!) for ideas about strategies for peaceful dinners, fostering healthy eaters, and dealing with picky ones.
Pick those battles
One thing you’ll hear me say repeatedly is pick your battles. Only you know what those are in your home, but there is one particular battle you will not win and that is the food battle. Today I give you 8 ways to at least corral the situation surrounding the Swiller’s eating habits.
8 Tips for picky eaters
1. Teach them to sit for family meals
Especially dinner. Depending on age, you may only be able to get them to do this for 5 minutes. But try for that and then go from there. It takes time, but your Swiller needs to know that family meals are important – special bonds are forged at the family table.
Short on time but need these tips quick? Grab your Picky Eaters Checklist and start winning at dinnertime!
2. Serve food they like!
If you know your kid won’t touch a reuben sandwich with a 10-foot pole, don’t expect him to eat it. If you have to serve hotdogs and mac-and-cheese every Tuesday to get him to eat once a week, do it. Gradually introduce new meals – more on this later.
3. Lower expectations for meal-time
Your dinner time enjoyment will be limited during the younger years of rearing. It’s best to accept this fact and serve the mac-n-cheese. Besides, you’ll need the extra cash you’ll spend on steak for when he’s a teenager (they eat a lot of it then). Lower your palate standards and shoot for dinner out with hubby when you can!
3. Limit snacks
Try to only offer one snack in between meals and if they don’t like that have a backup option you know they’ll eat. Also try to aim for healthy – carrots and hummus or fruit and yogurt – so it’s not so filling they’re not hungry for regular meals.
4. Limit drinks
My oldest Swiller drank her life away for 3 years and I didn’t even realize it was stifling her appetite! If your picky eaters are filling up on Koolaid, juice, and milk, that’s part of the problem. Be sure you’re offering water regularly – start them young, it’s important they cultivate a thirst for this life-giving drink!
5. Take 3 bites of everything (or 1 or 2 for younger kids)
At least if you know most of it is food they like (see number 2), and you aren’t giving tons of snacks and drinks, you know they can eat three bites. Some people hate this idea but it really worked for me and taught my kids to be more open minded. Many times they discovered they actually liked what I was serving.
6. Count ketchup as a vegetable
Every time I complained to the pediatrician about my kid’s poor eating habits, he said, “I know it seems like they’re only eating the same thing all the time, but hopefully over the course of a month, they’re hitting all of their nutrition needs. And you can count ketchup as a vegetable”.
Trust me – I served a LOT of ketchup back in the day.
7. Introduce 1 new food per week or every other week.
You can’t expect your wiener-loving child to automatically try pinto beans, cornbread, and relish all in the same meal if he’s never had any of it. Give him the wieners and add a pinto bean or two. Key phrase: add in moderation.
8. Don’t make meal time a battle
You can’t make a kid eat. I tried it. It doesn’t work. Veteran moms will tell you, you will go down as a casualty in the food war. The best way to get kids to eat is by not freaking out about them not eating. The more excited you get, the more frantic your picky eaters will be and then everyone ends up with an upset stomach. Just.don’t.
Encourage your child to participate in family meal time. Delay your own expectations for what dinner should look like and compromise with healthier versions of what he likes. Limit snacks and drinks, and try to get them to eat at least a bite of each dish offered. Slowly introduce new foods and try not to freak out about balanced meals.
Remember, you’re raising a Swiller, and battles must be picked with the Swiller. He will eventually decide to eat. My oldest went on food strike at age one and didn’t eat again until age four. And guess what – she didn’t die.
Meanwhile, here is a checklist of picky eater strategies from the weekly freebies series you can start today!
I have learned that raising children is the single most difficult thing in the world to do. It takes hard work, love, luck, and a lot of energy, and it is the most rewarding experience that you can ever have.