We have two responses to share with you regarding our first Ask a Mentor Mom! question. These moms have shared from their experience and their hearts and will readily admit that what they are suggesting may not work for everyone. We acknowledge that we are all ‘coming to the table’ (pardon the pun) with different parenting strategies, different experiences and different kids so please keep that in mind as you read their answers.
Ask a Mentor Mom! Question: In light of our dinner meltdown tonight (my four year old AND me!), can you give some advice for how to deal with picky eaters?
Kids can be picky eaters for a variety of reasons and parenting styles can vary from family to family, therefore, making it hard to give solid advice. Instead of giving advice, I’ve jotted down a few things that I’ve considered or have put to use over the years.
Is your child eating too many “in-between meal” snacks? A hungry child is more likely to eat what’s on the plate and food tastes better when one’s hungry.
Is your child drinking their calories? Too much juice/milk throughout the day can kill an appetite.
Is it a singular food group? Explore – My daughter will not eat fruit. The pediatrician has told me that the part of the tongue that tastes fruit is much enlarged and therefore is no surprise that fruit tastes incredibly sour to her. I still encourage her to try because I know that taste buds can change.
Is it mixed foods like in a casserole? I’ve got one that simply gags on the feeling of mixed textures in his mouth. Make the basic meat/potato/vegetable that can be eaten separately. When I’m making a casserole, I plan leftovers of the separate items to be heated up.
One only eats two or three kinds of vegetables. I always have those choices on hand. I cook more than enough of the vegetable he likes for everyone and have left overs to heat up when I’m cooking something different the next night. Again, encourage trying new choices often. Better a few choices within a food group than trying to force many choices.
Is the atmosphere too chaotic? Sit together as a family and turn the t.v. and extra noise off.
Sometimes kids need to feel grounded to eat. Try a footstool they can put their feet on instead of letting their legs dangle.
If you’ve got food on the plate that you know they like and they’re just being stubborn, you can hold the plate on the table until they’re hungry.
Make sure your portions aren’t too big. Better to dish out seconds than to battle over the “clean your plate” motto.
Decide how important the battle is! I’ve not made food a huge issue because my kids were basically healthy. I would have liked to have had them eat the proper well-balance diet from the get go but that didn’t happen in my house. Overall, though, all five have turned out to be basic well-balanced eaters.
I remember learning a few things from others when it came to dealing with picky eaters. The first thing is that eating is one of the few places where a child can feel a sense of control. As we’ve all experienced, it is impossible to force a child to eat! In their little worlds where a grown up is continually trying to guide their behavior, mealtime is one time when they can refuse to do what we want them to!
My brother knew of a toddler that refused to eat anything but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches–morning, noon and night! The little boy’s doctor told his mom to let him. He was getting all kinds of nutrients that his body needed, and soon he would tire of it and move on to something else. I’m sure that little boy is a grown man now, alive and well despite weeks of PB and J.
We chose to not make special meals for our picky eaters if they didn’t like what was being served. One thing we tried was to have them take as many bites as they were old of the food they didn’t want to eat. Not a perfect solution, but it worked a sometimes, and by the time they were 16, they were eating adult sized portions! (Just kidding!) 🙂
Mealtime can be such special family time. I think the key is to keep it from becoming all about the food battles. If a child refuses to eat, offer to excuse them and remind them there will be no dessert or snacks until the next meal. And stick to it! 🙂
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