How To Help Your Child Embrace Food

As my kids get older I am starting to believe that fussy eaters are partially made, not born. There is an element of kid personality in there – stubborn, adventurous, fearful, curious – but there is also what we, as parents do that contribute to picky eating.

This isn’t about blame or any kind of accusation. But so many of us resort to negotiation, substitutions, and even resignation all in the name of ensuring our kids eat a meal. What’s important is that we care that our kids are eating and we care what they eat.

I believe that if we make an issue out of things, it becomes an issue. So if your kid won’t eat vegetables and you are constantly haranguing them to eat their peas, then they will grow up fighting you on them. But if you encourage them to try new things and trust that they won’t starve themselves, everyone will be happier.

Photo by Cheryl

Cheryl’s Table

In our house we feed our kids what we eat for dinner – same spices, same seasonings, same ingredients. We put a little of everything on their plate. After that they can choose to eat it or not. The key rule is that they at least have to try everything.

Are my kids picky? Not really, but they are particular about a few things. My 3 year old has an utter dislike for white foods (rice, potatoes, and pasta that isn’t spaghetti) and vegetables generally only get eaten when I’m prepping them and not when the toddler is presented them on a plate.

But we don’t have food battles and I think I know why.

We make the finding, the preparing, and the sitting down together to eat central to eating, not just the act of putting food in our mouths. Food is part of life, something to celebrate and give us energy.

Food is not a call to arms.


Photo by Cheryl

How to help your child embrace food

These are my tips for reducing the chance of pickiness rearing its ugly head at your dinner table.

Sit Down Together

When we eat together they see everyone eating the same thing (positive peer pressure). They copy what we do all the time, so model your own good eating.

Utensils

Change it up sometimes or let them eat with their hands. Novelty can go a long way. For example, with kiddie chopsticks, my 3 year old will devour sashimi. But ask her to eat cooked salmon at home and she often turns her head.

Get Them in the Kitchen

It’s no guarantee, but having them help, even as a toddler, gives them ownership and pride in what’s on their plate.

Get Them in the Field

Have them touch the food in the ground, as it comes out of the ground. Those memories will trigger lots of enjoyment and association at the dinner table. Knowing where your food comes from is fodder for appreciation.


Photo by Cheryl

Don’t Lie

I’m not a fan of hiding vegetables in food or making up fun names for conventional things. It is what it is and they will like it or not. When you hide food within food I feel like you are cheating your kid. That being said, here is a great recipe for macaroni and cheese with squash.

Food is Food

Along the same lines as not hiding vegetables I also don’t generally like making cute faces, cutting pretty shapes, or making up non-food names for food. Of course, family nicknames for things don’t count. We call filled pasta Ghosts, for example.

Relax

Over the course of a week most kids eat a balanced diet (if you offer them one). So what if one day is not great on the veggie or milk front. Tomorrow they’ll eat a bowl of yogurt and it will be fine. Don’t sweat every meal.

Offer, Offer, Offer

If you only give your kids chicken strips and cheese then that’s what they’ll eat, so don’t complain about it. If you want them to eat something besides that then prepare yourself for a few weeks of tantrums and simply take that stuff out of the house. Then just keep presenting what you want them to eat, no pressure, and hope for the best.

At the end of the day

Whether we’re full of energy or dog tired, we want to sit down to a pleasant family meal at the end of the day. Or, in my house, a meal that involves roaring contests and loads of Peek-A-Boo. No one wants a battle. Make your moves one at a time, slowly; over time you will have greater success than if you approach every meal as if it were another war. No one ever wins that way.

Let the food itself be a leader and the rest can follow.

How do you introduce new foods to your kids?

About Cheryl

Cheryl is a mom to two energetic and strong-willed little girls. It’s a good thing they already like her cooking. She blogs the family’s cooking and taste adventures at Backseat Gourmet.

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Comments

  1. I love this and recommend many of the same concepts to my students and their families. In fact, many of these items are on my agenda for the talk I am giving tomorrow night to a group of parents of multiples! Keep up the discussion of healthy eating with kids – the more we put it out there, the more people will see that it is a part of life, not something that needs to be forced. It’s important for parents to remember that if we push, they will push back…even harder! I’m going to share this now with my Facebook fans! Thanks :-)
    .-= Michelle (What’s Cooking)’s last blog: Tips for Saving Time In the Kitchen =-.

  2. Great article – I especially agree with your last point that your kids will eat what you offer them. I don’t have any kids yet, but I can tell you that’s what worked for my parents with me and my brother. And to this day neither of us are picky eaters. Definitely also has to do with the example my parents set. Wouldn’t have helped if they offered us a plate full of veggies while they munched down on junkfood…
    .-= Marisa’s last blog: Greek Green Bean Stew =-.

  3. What I would like to know is how do you go about making them try one bite? My 2.5 year old will not try a bite of something if she doesn’t want to even if she sits at the table all night. It seriously is impossible. I’ve tried encouraging to try it, bribing, you name it. What’s your tactic?

    • Tough question. Our toddler hasn’t grasped this rule yet. Rather than focus on the trying one bite and turning that into a battle itself, we simply go buy the other principles – we all eat the same meal and it is up to them to decide what they eat off their plate. The trying one bite thing is heavily encouraged, but not enforced as much. One thing that has helped is that if she is asking for more of something else, they can’t have it until they’ve tried everything.
      .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Upcoming Event – A True Taste Adventure =-.

      • I don’t have a solid answer either, but I think it depends on the child. Mine tend to respond to incentive, ie: no dessert until you try a bite. 4 1/2 year-old is old enough now to understand that ONE bite isn’t much and a reasonable request. He’ll gladly take one bit as opposed to the other option: an entire bowl!

    • You definitely have to be careful about what you think is the reason your kids will try things. I included our 3-year-old in EVERY step the other day. We drove up north, picked the strawberries ourselves, and played at the farm for awhile. He refused to try one, so we drove home, and I asked him if cutting one would help. He said yes, so I let him help me cut them, and he threw the green parts in the garbage for me. Still wouldn’t try one. Then, I let him put the strawberries in the blender and we made smoothies. He still wouldn’t try one. Then, I put some in a bowl and put ice cream in it. He still wouldn’t try one.

      There was no fight. He wasn’t mad at me, and I wasn’t mad at him. I told him the doctor said he had to eat a strawberry, and that’s the next thing he has to have, and he could have anything else he wanted after that. I even told him it was ok to wait until his tummy was rumbling, as that might make the strawberry taste better if for some reason he didn’t like it. HE DIDN’T EAT FOR 24 HOURS!

      After this, he was thirsty enough that I talked him into have a sip of water, because I was obviously getting worried about dehydration, which was also something he resisted. After this, we went another 2 hours, for 26 hours total without eating, until I eventually got him to take one tiny sip of a smoothie, after which I had to admit he at least tried it, and was thus allowed to have something else.

      CRAZYCRAZYCRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      If you think they will always eat eventually to avoid starvation, you’re wrong. Some kids will starve themselves.

  4. Cheryl, this was a goodread. I especially agree with not disguising or hiding food, serving one meal and being a part of the growing process.

    I’m such an old fashioned mother what is served is what is available to eat. If you don’t like it, you don’t eat. Seriously, if we lived in a developing nation we’d have no choice, why do we think that we have to give so many choices to our children at meal times.

    We’ve only had a couple food “battles” with our kids when they were really little, about age 2. And when they realized that what was a the table was what we were eating, no alternatives (and no nighttime snacking either), they learned pretty quick that being picky meant going hungry.

    That’s not to say they don’t like certain things, they each have favorites and not-so-favorites. But because we eat a lot of soups and stews and one pot meals our children are allowed to pick out one thing from the meal they don’t want. Funny thing is, at 10, 9 & 7 they hardly ever pick out anything. And let me tell you, we eat a LOT of vegetables, cooked and raw.

    I think giving them a little control in the matter is very important (but not a myriad of choices). And of course we never force our children to eat anything. But if they don’t eat their supper they also miss out on fruit smoothies for dessert.

  5. I was wondering how you enforce the “try everything” rule, too. The last time we tried that plan, my 4-year-old said, “I’ll just go to sleep.” And she did. She closed her eyes at put herself to eat at the dining room table.
    .-= Nichole’s last blog: I only shared 7 of my M&Ms =-.

    • Okay, I’ll admit, I find that a little funny. Like I said in response to this earlier, this rule is one that is encouraged, rather than enforced. I don’t want a battle at the dinner table. And remember, the more you offer, the more likely they are to try it. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged.
      .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Upcoming Event – A True Taste Adventure =-.

  6. Great article! I think we all go through food likes and dislikes throughout our lives and it’s important that kids know that it happens to mom and dad, too. Recently my 7 year old decided he no longer enjoys sweet potatoes, one of his favorite foods since he began eating solids. Instead of getting upset, we decided together to make a list of veggies he does like (green beans, broccoli, edamame etc). It was a great opportunity to talk about how important a wide variety of foods is for our bodies and that if he doesn’t want to eat one thing, let’s think about an alternative that’s equally as healthy.

    Unlike my childhood of spending long nights in tears at the dinner table, alone, crying over a plate of brussels sprouts that I just couldn’t choke down (and still can’t as a result), we try to use these natural fluctuations of growth and evolution as opportunities to open up dialogue. Fighting over food sends so many wrong choices, and I agree that “hiding” or being sneaky about ingredients does more harm than good. We talk about food a lot and as a result my son will reach for the healthy alternatives (almost) every time.

    Thanks for the positive reinforcement!

  7. Great article! I do need to be reminded to back off every now and then and not micro-manage my kids diet.

    I do like the idea of hiding veggies in their food when possible. I don’t remember to do it often though. The idea behind this technique is to still offer whole veggies along with the veggie camouflaged food, and apply the same rules that you have above. It’s not about ONLY offering the food with the hidden veggies. I feel the benefits of this are two fold 1) The child is getting some form of veggies (although the nutrients may have been completely cooked out at that point), and they are possibly getting a slight acclimation to the flavor; 2) It allows the parents to relax when the kids don’t actually eat the whole veggies, which is one of the points of the article above.

    In our family, we’ve had great success with our five year old and getting him to try and eat some veggies, if we discuss how they help his body. Then we use a sort of reverse psychology on him, teasing and telling him NOT to eat those “kid growers”, as he’s already grown big enough. More often than not, he’ll dive in with a cute, devious smirk on his face and laugh when we smile and jokingly yell, “NOOOOOO, you’re going to grow so big and strong, what are we going to do with you?”

    I too am interested on how people enforce the one-bite rule (although I’d rather have a three bite rule). Our kids will usually try one bite, but it is often so minuscule that they probably don’t even taste it. I try not to get into food battles with my kids because they are usually lose-lose situations in the long-run.

  8. What a great article! I learned with my little guy a long time ago, that his pickiness was really just a way for him to have some control in his life. I let him have a little and the battles have really subsided. I love the tip about offering them more than just chicken strips. You’re so right about this one! And using interesting utensils is a great idea and one I haven’t given much thought to..but I will now.
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)’s last blog: Butter Tart Muffins and a Love Story =-.

  9. This was a very helpful article. My son is our picky one. I try to introduce a new food and tell him to just have a bite and see if you like it. It can be a fight sometimes and I really hate that. I’m going to keep trying to introduce new foods and apply some of these tips. Thank you!
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Post It Note Tuesday! =-.

  10. I agree especially with the “get them in the field” – gardening together and our visit to the farm we get our local foods delivery from last year really made big impressions on my oldest (our most picky eater) and while she may still leave a big bowl of lettuce behind, at least now she will eat the other veggies in the salad :-)
    .-= Kara’s last blog: Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

    • That’s great Kara! I encourage all families to skip an occasional day at the beach this summer and head to a farm instead. Maybe we should team up on a project! =)

  11. Michelle says:

    Count me in for tips on how to get them to take that “one bite”. I’m not doing a great job in this area and could really use some ideas.

    • Another thing to remember when it comes tro trying one bite, is that kids will often model behaviour. Just a little positive peer pressure. This worked just last night for us when the toddler was refusing her carrots. Her sister ate hers, pointing it out rather vocally, and the toddler at least considered it. We don’t always succeed, but the point is to keep offering and be consistent. Good luck!
      .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Upcoming Event – A True Taste Adventure =-.

  12. Great article! We definitely only serve our 5 yr. old daughter what everyone else is having for dinner, although, my husband and I like really spicy foods, so if we are preparing something with extra zing, I usually put a portion of it in a separate pan and cook that ‘toned-down’ for our daughter. Its basically the same thing, minus a chili pepper or two! We do have kiddie chopsticks, and she LOVES using those!
    We also enforce the ‘you need to try everything on your plate once’ rule. To enforce it, we usually try to plan something fun for after dinner – a family game, or a walk to the park – to encourage her to ‘get-on-with-it and think of all the fun we are going to have when you finish!’ We also remind her of things she didn’t think that she’d like and are now on her ‘favorite foods’ list. We took a vacation to Hawaii last summer and she tried octopus and LOVED IT (I don’t understand, but who am I to knock it?), so we remind her of times like that and it usually gets her to eat at least one bite. If she says she doesn’t like something, we don’t force her to eat more either – she trusts us that the one bite is really all she has to try. Hope that helps!

  13. Great article! I wrote one not too long ago for my work newsletter, but I’m printing this one out for “a mom’s perspective” to give to my clients.

  14. What we have had the most success with in getting my daughter to take one bite is this; we will do it as a family – everyone takes one bite all together. We “cheers” with our forks and have a big countdown and try to make it fun. It doesn’t ALWAYS work, but most of the time my very 2 little 2 1/2 year old will pop it right in her mouth with my husband and I!

  15. I have thought about this way too much for someone who doesn’t have kids yet. It’s hard not to worry as I watch my nieces and SIL do battle every Sunday. I”m not too worried about my own relationship with food and how I pass that on.. but not sure how to contend with extended family dynamics. For my nieces it’s a form of power and a way of gaining attention as far as I can see, reinforced because they do get intense attention when they dig their heels in.. I wonder what my own rugrats will pick up.
    .-= Claire’s last blog: Noodly =-.

    • That’s a fair worry. We are lucky/unlucky in that we live in a different city as the rest of our family. The rest of our family has a different approach to meals than we do. If we are in their home we feel like we have to respect that somewhat. And, to be honest, we do relax a little. It’s hard, but we know we only visit sporadically and one night isn’t going to ruin their manners and eating.
      .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Upcoming Event – A True Taste Adventure =-.

  16. Thanks for the tips, although those of us with underweight kids may find the whole eating thing more of a challenge :) We often read, for example, that the rule should be the child takes at least one bite of any new food. But not all kids comply with such rules. You can’t force them to, either, and they know it!

  17. My second son has been more of a pickier eater than his older brother who only doesn’t like raisins [but then again neither do I] and my picky eater finally ate salad that we purchased some of it from the Farmer’s Market and picked some from our small garden, he helped me chop and tear, make the dressing [his choice on flavor] and proudly ate his creation! Turns out he likes it and eats salad more readily especially when we figured out some dressing options that we all liked.

  18. Lindsey@ Mama Sews says:

    And sometimes you do all the “right” things and you still end up with picky eaters. There’s no magic formula or right steps to ensure your kids will eat what you want them to eat.

    The important thing to remember if your kids are picky it’s not b/c you’ve done something wrong, it’s b/c they are kids with their own likes and dislikes. We do all the “right” things but my daughter will not eat meat and very little vegetables. My son will not touch a fruit. Together they eat a balanced diet! :) I just don’t fret over it.
    .-= Lindsey@ Mama Sews’s last blog: a little craftiness =-.

  19. My kids are semi-picky and we’ve found that for us what works best is just not to make it an issue. We all have the same stuff on our plate. They eat it or they don’t, but there is NOTHING else. Dessert, if there is any (which isn’t all that often round here) isn’t used for bribery (I distinctly remember asking what was for dessert as a kid and then using that as a deciding factor as to whether or not I would eat my food). If they sit at the table until we (adults) are done our main course, then they can have dessert too. The only rule is that nobody can say “I hate this” or “This is gross” or anything along those lines. Just don’t eat it! This is mostly cause the youngest will do whatever her older brother does, so if he calls her attention to the fact that brussel sprouts are gross, then she won’t eat them. If no one says it though, she’ll wolf them down! I’ve also found that patience is key. I think I served my son carrots 50 times before he finally tasted them and decided he liked them!

  20. absolutely, we get very excited at my house when we have artichokes with hollandaise!
    .-= londonmom1′s last blog: What 10 000 hours of practise have taught me =-.

  21. Thank you for this guide. I also am not a fan of hiding fruits and vegetables under the camouflage of cheese or sugar. I think introducing and continually and persistently reintroducing food to children is the best strategy to raising an omnivore.

  22. I agree with so much of what you said. And I practice a lot of it. I still get frustrated when they all try a bite of everything and then don’t eat anything. But I know overall they’re happy *and* healthy, so it’s just fine…and in another week they might like it, who knows!

    The one area that I haven’t encouraged and have been thinking a lot about lately is having them pick the berries, pull the carrots, etc. I grew up on a farm and tell them stories aobut getting my milk straight from the cow or sitting at the picnic table and snapping the ends off the beans after picking them from the garden. The more stories I share, the more I really want them to have that experience too.

    I do, however, cook with the kids and it’s one of my favorite things. My two oldest, 4 and 6, eash have a night to pick the meal and help prepare it. It’s wonderful one-on-one time!
    .-= Annie’s last blog: Feeling Accomplished =-.

  23. Mandee Jo says:

    Thought I’d share a little wisdom I learned from working in daycare. There are two things you can’t control about children.
    1. What goes in them
    2. What comes out of them

  24. Thanks so much for a great article. In my early years as a mother I had read these similar ideas in a book and put them into practice in our home. They work wonderfully and my children enjoy many types of fruits and veggies at our house.

  25. Great stuff, Cheryl! I definitely think that involving our boys in growing or procuring the food has been the most beneficial. Our 3.5 year old is so excited to eat any vegetable when it came from our garden, or our local farmers. He always wants to know where it comes from and he’s always excited.

    • That’s so cool Shannon! Last year Noah grew a pumpkin and followed it from seedling to pie. He was immeasurably proud, as was I.

  26. At our house we generally plate everyone’s food. If you don’t like something, you’re required to eat as many bites as you are old. Because we have four kids and everyone knows the drill, it usually isn’t a problem. While there may be groaning and mumbling, because they all know the rules, they all follow the rules and the grumbles are minimal. We also emphasize that the older kids be an example for the younger kids, and then there’s the desire to just get it over with so you can get seconds on something else you’d rather eat.

    I have to agree with going to a farm and planting your own garden as well. My kids have always been thrilled to go to the farmer’s market, out to the farm and to pick the vegetables in our own garden. This year they have their own plants to care for. They are always excited when they realize we’re making dinner with the things we picked and grew or went to the farm for.
    .-= Shaina’s last blog: Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Bread Pudding =-.

  27. Great post. I agree with everything you said. Picky eating is a normal part of development for kids. If we as parents make it an issue, it will become an issue. My 3-year old daughter doesn’t even know she is a picky eater. She’ll tell me “I love fruits and vegetables” and I say “I know you do sweety.” Even though she really doesn’t eat much veggies despite carrots, corn and sometimes broccoli. I know she’ll eat more as she gets older. Kids really do have a drive to eat like us. We just need to trust them and give them time and plenty of opportunities.

    One trick I learned from feeding expert Ellyn Satter is to provide at least one or two items I know she’ll eat. It might be bread and carrots or milk and fruit. This way, she feels more comfortable with the new foods and is more likely to try them. Research shows that repeated exposure and pairing new foods with liked foods, helps to increase food acceptance.
    .-= Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters’s last blog: Family Dinners: Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili =-.

    • I love this, Maryann. “My 3-year old daughter doesn’t even know she is a picky eater.”
      You make a very good point. Fortunately my sons readily enjoy 3-4 types of vegetables each, so I can always provide something for them to eat.

      Thanks for your input!

  28. I agree with most of the points in the article, although I would guess that personality can play a larger role than you think. My daughter is afraid of changes in general, and that often translates to food. She is also quite sensitive to textures – she isn’t afraid of fruits and vegetables, exactly (she knows they are good for her, and she wants to want to eat them, although she often puts it off until “tomorrow”), but she likes to have everything either pureed very smooth or crisp and crunchy. I try to be sensitive to her tastes without completely catering to them: I do make one meal (for dinner, at least) that we all eat – but I try to make sure there is at least one thing that she’s familiar with at the table, and I often puree soups and sauces, and make healthful additions to them as well (although I don’t really call it “sneaky”, because she knows what I’m putting in there). I don’t try to enforce a “1 bite rule” (I do encourage), and I generally don’t offer dessert after dinner at all, because I don’t want to use it as a bribe, and if I offer it she will often only pick at her dinner. I do give her treats, but I do it at other times of the day. I do think that her picky eating has improved over the last few years, but it has been pretty slow going. I have tried many of the suggestions: we often cook together, and we’ve grown vegetables as well. These things have not affected her eating significantly at this point, although perhaps they will help her in the future. I do think that “sneaking” in healthy foods is a fine idea for parents who don’t feel like their children are getting enough nutrients, as long as the end result tastes like “real” food – it can take enough stress away from the parent to decrease mealtime battles, and that is more important than anything else. Some good foods to add to include soups, chili, tomato sauce, refried beans, and smoothies. I also think that “cute” food has it’s place: I don’t make every sandwich look like a smiley face, but I’ve been known to use the sandwich press to make little packages of food, or make bento boxes with fruit skewers and little tortilla roll-ups. If it’s novelty (like the chop sticks), they are sometimes more likely to try it. I do agree that if you don’t want your child to eat something, you should probably not have it in the house, but I’m not sure you should take away the only thing they’ll eat and brace yourself for a week of tantrums – that doesn’t sound like it would be worth it for anyone. Start with “running out” of something for a day or two, and see how it goes. It could be a process, rather than something that has to be done away with all at once.
    .-= Maia’s last blog: Easy-peasy bread puddin’ =-.

    • Sounds like you are doing a great job of handling a challenging situation, Maia.

      Very good point about ‘running out’ of a favorite. That makes sense to kids.

      I’m all for making food fun, and occasionally cute, but the last time I made a race car out of celery and carrots, my 4yo only played with it and never ate it!

      • I agree with you on that one, Aimee – I would never go to that much trouble to make something look “cute”. I also don’t bend over backwards to make something new for my daughter unless the rest of the family would enjoy it – because chances are she won’t eat more than one bite, and I don’t like to set myself up for frustration! I love this blog, and I’ve been following UTHC for awhile – :)
        .-= Maia’s last blog: ZOMBIE sugar cookies =-.

  29. jodi @ back40life says:

    thanks for the great encouragement…we really struggle with our 3 year old and I know part of that is because we don’t have fabulous habits ourselves all of the time and part of it is that he is just picky with food by nature. we’re trying to establish some new patterns these days and this was a great read for me!

  30. jodi @ back40life says:

    oh – and one thing that does work well is turning lunch into a “picnic” out by the swing set…he’s much more open-minded outside ;)

  31. Yes! Great article! It almost exactly mirrors my own philosophies on feeding young children – I have a (nearly) 2 year old. I particularly agree with the sentiments about not ‘hiding’ veggies in other foods – it feels like deceit – and not making funny faces out of food. If a child is hungry, he or she couldn’t care whether it’s presented in a smiley face or not!

    I did struggle a bit when my daughter was teething, which caused her to flatly refuse most food for several days during each teething ‘episode’. This was very distressing! However I was fortunate enough to hear another mom, going through the same thing, comment: “Liam was cranky with teething and for three days would only eat custard. I figured that custard was better than nothing, and spooned it into him. When the teething pain stopped, he started eating properly again.”

    • Whew, teething is a whole other ball game, isn’t it, Kate?

      I would freeze long, thin sections of pineapple (a good size for a little hand to hold) and give that to them to gnaw on when it got really bad.

  32. My biggest problem – or our biggest meal battle – is keeping my 3 year-old at the table long enough. He’ll eat a few bites to take off the hunger edge and then beg, sneak or bully to be excused from the table. He’s super active and breaking from play to eat is almost a crime to him.

    We’ve succumbed to letting him go play if he comes back for bites. Which gets him nourished but is not how I would like to have our dinner time be. When we just let him go (early in the meal) he then is hungry later – usually at bath or bedtime.

    Any thoughts? We all eat together but I guess we’re just not all that interesting! :)

    • Dinnertime is always a challenge, isn’t it! It may take some time, but if you are committed to having a meal together then work towards a set of dinnertime rules. And that can include sitting at the table until a certain point.

      We are quite strict on this one. Everyone has to stay at the dinner table until every one is done eating. Even the dawdling toddler. Sure, it does lead to frustration at the beginning as everyone gets used to it (my Hubby included), but the hard work pays off. We can sit for over an hour without trouble, just a lot of odd conversations that one has with a 3.5 and 1.5 year old at the table.

      Maybe try with setting a timer for the amount of time everyone has to sit together? Or a certain number of bites. And then limit snacks after meals so he starts to learn that he only gets to eat at the table. Let us know how it works!

      One great advantage of this dinnertime strategy is that it makes restaurant visits so much easier.
      .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: The Cure for Picky Eating? =-.

  33. Nicely written! I work with children who are resistant eaters ( that’s like a super picky eater – with highly restricted self imposed diets) and I’m the parent of a child who was a resistant eater. At age 5 years he only ate 5 different foods and weighed 14 kgs. It was eventually resolved with him eating something from all food groups. ( it took 4 years though)
    Food can be so stressful for the person that’s preparing the food only to have the child refuse it is such a difficult and emotional thing.
    You’ve given some really sound advice above. A couple of things are really key to having a child that is more willing to try things. Get them involved in food preparation as much as possible – it does make a huge difference.
    Let them serve themselves from the available dishes – they are more likely to eat it if they have chosen it themselves.
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you.

  34. My 2 year old went through some resistance to foods early on. The thing that I finally figured out was to show her that I was eating it, too. Literally. I’d put a bite in my mouth and then opened wide to show her. Not pretty to be sure, but it worked. That’s how I got her to eat her vitamins and nearly everything else.

    I also don’t stress when she says no. I usually say OK and put the food down. Usually, she’ll come back in a few minutes and pick up the banana or apple or green beans or whatever. It drives me nuts when she asks for something and then when it’s ready says no, but this trick usually works. Sometimes though, I end up eating it, and that’s OK too.

    My niece is hugely obese and eats very little of any nutritional value at age 12 and I swore that if I ever had a kid I would never allow her to be like that. So far, so good. My kid eats nearly everything. The one thing that we do need to start doing is sitting down at the table to eat as a family. Couch eating is fine for adults but it’s causing our girl to roam and come back for bites. That’s not OK with me and I need to nip it in the bud. Thanks for the reminder on that!

  35. Thanks for this! As much as we say we aren’t going to let food be a battle, it seems like it’s a nightly “negotiation” with our 2-year old. (Chopsticks have helped!) It’s been a major source of stress at times until I recognized that part of my stress was feeling like I put all that time/energy into making the food only to have him say, “I want peanut jelly sandwich!” We do much better when I remind myself that rejecting the food is not a rejection of the person who made the food. repeat. repeat. repeat.
    .-= Alissa’s last blog: Things that bring us joy =-.

  36. Thanks for the good read. It’s always nice to hear other stories and ideas. Yesterday Ava and I made fresh spinach pasta and wow- when it came time to eat her creation- she was thrilled to suck the noodles down. I agree that giving kids a bit of a say in what’s for dinner – letting them choose between some of your choices that is- has been a great way for our two rug rats to eat healthy…
    ps- Fun to see our little ‘egg gathers’ hand in this post.

  37. Meredith says:

    My siblings and I managed to be trained not to be picky to the point where we all remember -quite- clearly how upset [furious, well and truly] we were when, upon visiting some friends of my parents, the children were relegated to the kitchen to eat bologna sandwiches for dinner while the grown-ups had Chinese. Though we did have to try ‘brownie bites’ of everything [with much encouragement to hold our noses if it helped, of course!], I think my mother’s trick was mostly the ‘eat it or starve’ ploy- with the exception of a thing or two that a child absolutely loathed [even at the age of 24 I still cannot abide fish-sticks and used to hate broccoli passionately, no notion why, now], she refused to ever let us eat something different than what was being served to everyone else. If that meant we went without curry one night, we were all the more likely to eat what was served at the next meal. We also never, as she put it, ‘joined the clean-plate club’. If there was food left over on our plates, so be it, fighting to make a child eat food they don’t want is unhealthy, and promotes overeating later in life as well. If it could be dumped in the tupperware with the rest of the leftovers it was, if not, it hit the trash or compost, but the portions were generally small, so it was no big waste

    Of course, we proved early on to be adventurous, so this helped. After taking the crying infant out to calm her down at a restaurant one evening, Mum returned to find that her calamari appetizer had been inhaled by myself [three] and my older sister [six]. Dad had carefully refrained from telling us what it was, so we just thought it was tasty.

  38. I love love love this post – and TOTALLY agree with it. I am trying to raise my almost 9 month old healthy and non picky. I am having her try world flavors, even now at this young age.

    I got a recognition award from a fellow blogger the other day. Very Nice. I was asked to pass it on to other bloggers I like. You are on the list. Check out the posting at my blog, Global Table…

    Sasha
    .-= Sasha’s last blog: Sunshine Award =-.

  39. I certainly agree with getting the kids to cook with you. Great idea. Also, at our house each person is allowed to have 3 foods that never pass their lips. Other than those three you had to try a bite. It gave our son some power and also got him to try a few things. Lastly, I think mouth-feel has a lot to do with what kids like and don’t like. For example, not many people want to eat a wet potato chip. Perhaps trying a vegetable very soft, crispy, or maybe coated in panko breadcrumbs and baked might make a difference.

  40. For a long time I fretted over the kids not eating this and that, and it seemed that the more I worried about it, the fussier they became. In the end, I didn’t push them that much so if they didn’t eat a lot of their food, I’d take it away and not make any fuss about it. They realised quickly that the became hungry quickly and in time, I found they started to eat and try more things.
    Tany’s last post: Looking For A Great Au Pair

  41. Melissa T says:

    I was never a picky eater and wasn’t allowed to be. But our daughter is a different story. I think some of these ideas are good, but the old adage that “if they are hungry, they will eat” doesn’t work with some children who have sensory issues relating to food. So I encourage parents to talk with a nutrionist or a feeding therapist/OT to find out if there is something other than stubborness behind their child refusing to try or eat food… Just a word of caution.

  42. We just started feeding our family some healthy chocolate that has a ton of antioxidants and omegas and digestive enzymes, so we aren’t fighting with them to eat their vegetables..much easier this way…we found it at eatingchocolates.com

  43. Really nice tips..I think I particularly like the idea of just minimising the amount of fuss as possible, I agree that if you make it a ‘thing’, it will be a ‘thing’!

    I found Mellisa T’s comment particularly interesting, I do think some kids just never seem to get excited about food and do have these kinds of sensory issues, almost phobias..of certain textures..have you ever had problems like this with your daughters? Jon@kdcuk

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