The secret to less picky eating
That’s a pretty bold statement.
It would almost seem like i’ve come across something that no one else has ever heard of and it’s going to solve all the world’s picky eating problems.
Well, I haven’t.
Solved all the problems. But I do have a strategy to share with you – if you’d like to hear it- that has worked wonders here and that I haven’t seen in any other ‘get those picky eaters eating’ articles.
…“I’m not eating that! You put veggies in it!”
…”I don’t like that green stuff!”
… “I’m hungry, Mom! What can I have for snack?”
Sound (exhaustingly) familiar?
..Sigh. “You will eat 4 bites.” And so the counting begins. Perhaps followed by “no cookie until you’ve eaten 4 bites!”
If it does, know that you’re certainly not the only parent battling with a picky eater. It’s by far the most common challenge readers have told me they face. They make healthy food and their kids refuse to try it.
Which is super frustrating! Finding and making healthy food is enough of challenge without adding mealtime battles to the mix.
We’ve certainly not immune here at our house. We get the ‘I don’t like this. I’m not eating that‘. I’m happy to say that it doesn’t happen very often, (for which my *ahem* not-so-patient self is very thankful)… so- to the point of this post, i’d like to offer you the solution that has worked to minimize picky eating here! The secret… 😉
To do this, I want to invite you to look at picky eating from another person’s perspective: From the perspective of your child.
Your kid is great. You have a smart, friendly, likely silly at times, lovable child, and he (or she) is not out to make mealtime a headache.
He’s not protesting against eating veggies simply because he wants to make you annoyed. Or because he enjoys watching you do deep breathing ‘calm parent’ mental exercises as you deal with his stubborn ways. 🙂
He’s also not protesting against eating veggies because he actually hates them. At least not most of the time. People do have their own likes and dislikes, but a blanket dislike of veggies isn’t a true dislike.
The real reason is that kids aren’t on board with parents’ efforts is that they weren’t invited to join ‘the team’.
It’s as though everyone is being chosen for teams in gym class and no one picked him. So he’s left sitting on the sidelines to be shown the score rather than being a team member. And who is more invested in a win? The team members & coach, or the spectator who is just watching and maybe flipping the score card?
The secret to less picky eating is giving kids ownership of their own eating decisions.
Start by helping them to own their decisions around food & you will cut your mealtime battles in half. Or maybe get rid of them entirely.
‘But they’ll make terrible decisions!’
‘They’ll eat sugar all day if I let them.’
‘My kid would never choose to eat veggies!’
Anyone? Am I the only one who has thought things like this?
I’m not going to tell you that “no, just give them a chance. Let them into the grocery store and have them choose, and just trust me, they will make wonderful decisions!”
No, more than likely they wouldn’t.
If a kid who really hates veggies is told, “Go buy whatever you want!” …Several frozen pizzas, a jumbo box of chocolate dipped granola bars, and cheesy fingers from happily crunching on Doritos is likely the result…
But they can learn to. This is where I found that bite counting, dessert bribes, and lectures go wrong. They seem to (sometimes) work in the moment, but they are missing the big picture.
This is where we need to take a step back. Back away from the battle at the table over the number of cauliflower bites that must be eaten, and look at the big picture.
What is your long term goal?
To get my kids eating what I make without a fight, even if it includes veggies.
Or maybe its, to get my kids to eat nutritious food so they can be strong and healthy.
There can be any number of reasons for wanting to ditch picky eating. In relation to this, one important lesson I have learned (which has been reinforced through many. many. mom vs kiddo standoffs) is this:
If I want my child to do something, if I can get them on board and choosing it themselves, suddenly I have won half the battle before I start. The same is true with eating healthy food.
Imagine now, for a minute, that you are building a house. (This relates. I promise!)
You’re very excited about the kitchen. It’s going to have white cabinets, an awesome slate blue backsplash, wide plank hardwood floors, a rustic touch in a wooden oven hood, and a large walk-in pantry.
The living room will have a 14′ ceiling with exposed wooden beams, and the wall colour you’ve chosen to paint with will match the beautiful furniture you found on clearance last week perfectly. It’s going to be awesome.
The bedrooms are planned, the master suite bathroom… and on and on. You’re ready to go, to make it all happen. #dreamhouse
Or are you?
If you start building and show up on day one to paint the living room walls or install your kitchen backsplash, you’ll (obviously) have a problem. #houston…
When you build a house, the first area of attention has to be the foundation. The supporting structure. No painting the living room walls on day one.
Ok. So we aren’t building houses, but in a sense, focusing on the number of bites of veggies being eaten today is like trying to paint the living room wall in a house that has no foundation.
Inviting your children onto your team and teaching them why they should choose healthy eating for themselves is that foundation.
There are a lot of different ways parents can go about getting kids over onto ‘team happy eaters’, and these aren’t the only things that can work, but I’ll share what i’ve had most success with.
- Making healthy food normal & creating a positive environment around healthy eating
- By offering healthy food every single day
- Not buying the things I’d rather they didn’t eat
- By offering my kids choices. ‘Should I make meal A or meal B?‘
- Inviting kids to help prepare healthy food #braceforthemess
- Sharing how much I love certain healthy foods
- By focusing on what we should include rather than focusing on what we shouldn’t eat
- By teaching balance. (Yes, have & enjoy the treat, but we don’t need it every day)
- For more on this see also: Get your kids to eat healthy food (happily)
- By teaching the WHY of healthy eating in a way they can understand and can relate to. My favourite way is through kids stories. Use those imaginations!
- See my first published storybook, all about loving spinach & greens here: Flint the Dragon Learns to Fly
As the foundation of understanding and feelings of ownership becomes stronger, the healthy habits being taught start to stick.
Keeping the long term goal of kids choosing to eat healthy foods in mind makes it easier to step back and not worry whether 4 bites of beans were or were not eaten today. Look instead at the overall successes and the big picture.
Are your kids eating more new foods than they used to?
Are fruits and veggies being added to more meals and snacks?
Has your child chosen to add something healthy to his plate by himself?
We all know that sooner or later our kids will grow up & begin to decide what to eat without our wise counsel. If the foundation of healthy eating habits is in place, they’ll have that solid support in their decisions.
And that solid foundation will hold up the snazzy paint job you did on the living room wall. 😉
Your turn! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
More in the picky eater series:
Part 3: Current post
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