Helping Your Picky Eaters

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I get many questions about how to get children to eat a variety of foods happily.  Well, several years ago we decided to tackle this common problem in our house, so we asked some friends how they managed to get their children to eat what was served to them so happilly.  the solution is quite simple if you are willing to be firm.

First,  was making a mistake of giving my children a large portion of their favorites and a small bite of the unfavorable food.  My children would fill up on the favorites, then claim they were full.  I had a hard time “forcing them” to eat the rest for fear they really were full.  Well, my friends quickly informed me that was not the way to go about it.

Instead, serve a tiny portion (about a tablespoon size) of all foods…favorites and the not-liked foods.  Once those were eaten, they could get more of the favorites.  By doing this, they were not possibly able to be full and I knew they legitimately could eat all that was on the plate.

Then, we discussed the food and their attitudes.  I explained that when they show ungratefulness toward food that was provided for us (through the Lord’s provision, my husband’s salary, and my work in the kitchen, they were simply being ungrateful.  They really needed a heart change.  I told them that they were not permitted to make unpleasant questions, comments or complaints about food any more.  Unpleasant questions such as “WHAT is that? Do I HAVE to eat that?”, nasty faces, and sniffling, complaining and gagging were no longer allowed.  If they decided they must behave that way over food served to them, they would be re-served that same food item for their next several meals.  I really did have to follow through on this about 4 times.  After they realized I was sticking to my word, the negative behavior stopped.

Once they were older and learned to show discretion and good manners, they were permitted to tell me in private that certain foods were not their favorites.  Then, I would serve them smaller amounts of these, or sometimes when I am able, I could offer an alternative.  For example, one of my daughters does not care for the taste of romaine lettuce.  So, if we are having a salad along with our dinner, I will also bring a bag of baby carrots to the table, and she may take a generous helping of those instead.  Another daughter does not care for sauce on her spaghetti.  I simply pull some out of the bowl for her and she can have hers plain.  Occasionally I will forget or will not be able to offer an alternative to them.  The good news is, with their proper training, they will go ahead and eat what is served with a thankful and caring attitude.

Now, occasionally we still have issues from time to time.  Today in fact, one of my daughters told me she would not eat her sandwich she was served for lunch.  “That’s fine,” my husband told her. “Wrap it up for your dinner tonight.”  No fights about it at the table.  We have a standard response to these issues.  Of course, we have done this enough that they know there will be no snacking or nibbling in between that meal and the next when one has refused certain foods.  In about 10 minutes she came back to the table and ate her sandwich.

What have you done to help the picky eaters in your home?

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2 Comments

  1. Melanie

    One veggie I just can’t seem to get my kids to try, eat, or like (the youngest hears the protest of the older two and won’t even try) is red bell peppers. They are so full of vitamin C and so expensive to waste. So I have started making red pepper puree and once the ketchup is 1/2 empty I mix it w/ a puree. My kids LOVE it! My youngest eats it plain on tortilla chips.

  2. Jennifer

    What we do to get the children ages 14 year old girl, 11 year old girl, 8 year old boy, to try new foods is get them in the kitchen. Each child has a cooking day. They get to pick what we make from recipes I have chosen. Usually it is something we have not tried yet. I find that if they have helped prepare the dish they will eat it. Even if there is something in there they don’t like.

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