how to help picky eaters

You’ve just slaved over an amazing dinner.  The kitchen is filled with the smells of delicious food.  Everyone sits at the table together and then it starts.  The “EWWWW, I don’t like this”, “do I have to eat this?”, “I’m not hungry”.  Then we get discouraged and feel like we shouldn’t even bother.  But like you, I got TIRED of this exhausting cycle and decided it was time to make some changes!

My husband and I created a “Family Food Pact” and this applies to everyone eating with us, including the ADULTS!

1) No complaining about Food

No one is FORCED to eat anything, we just don’t allowed or tolerate negative food talk.  See, the entire point of food is for nourishment, not comfort, entertainment or just because you’re bored.  When we complain about the food, it is disrespectful to the cook and says that we don’t appreciate the work it took to prepare the meal.  If one of the kids  complains, it is an immediate pick from the consequences can!  Negativity spreads like  wildfire!  It must be nipped ASAP!

2) Food is not a reward

I have to work with many of my health coaching clients on this same concept.  We treat ourselves to ice cream or cookies. If we try one bite we get dessert.  Or even worse, if you don’t eat your veggies, there are negative consequences (early bedtime, a spanking, no TV).  As parents, we want our children to develop memories of people and events — NOT food.  By making the focus on food, we will constantly struggle with this.

3) Mealtime is Family Time

I’ll be totally honest and say that my husband and I both go crazy about this pact!  VERY, VERY rarely are outside activities  allowed to interfere with dinner.  Yes, this is tough, but necessary.  I’m also often asked if we all eat the same thing.  The answer is YES and we eat it with a positive attitude.  family meal time

4)  Try it Again & Again

Look, I get it!  I”m a very picky eater myself.  But I eat waaaaaay more food these days than I ever did before.  Even as an adult.  SO our pact is that we each are willing to try at least one small bite of the food served.  This can be as simple as one green bean, one bite of chicken or one bite of sweet potatoes!  If you like it, GREAT!  You can always ask for more.  Don’t like it?  NO PROBLEM!  We praise their willingness to try foods.

5) A Hungry Tummy is OK!

I know children who are given a snack as soon as their tummy growls or they are just a little hungry.  Or they feel like enjoying a bowl of cheesy crackers.  Or we are trying to entertain them in public or on a longer car ride.  Look, I get it!  Sometimes we just need to do what to do to save our sanity, right!?  But it is when we make daily, or sometimes multiple times a day, that it becomes a problem.  We we have normal hunger at meal times, we are all more likely to eat whatever is served and eat enough of it to avoid hunger pangs 30 minutes after clean up.   We should all want our children to learn how to identify what it feels likes to be full and hungry.  The constant indulging in snacks and eating does not give our tummies a chance to inform us that we are hungry.  Then we are less likely to try to limit snacks

6) Quality not Quantity

When we are eating whole foods our bodies know exactly how to process and use the fuel we nourish ourselves with.  This is easier when we actually cook from scratch.  YES, this involves a little planning and preparation, but when we focus on real ingredients and real food, it can be done with less stress.  One of the things I teach in The Stress-Free Jumpstart to Meal Planing Success is getting the kids involved! When everyone is involved and invested, they start to encourage OTHERS to eat the quality food that has been prepared.

Does your family have any rules around meals, food or nutrition?  What works for you?


11 Replies to “One Simple Trick To Get Picky Kids to Eat Healthy”

  1. Great tips!! It’s amazing what habits we carry from our childhoods. As adults and parents it’s our responsibility to stop the cycle of those bad habits.

  2. Love the idea of a food pact. We don’t have children, but I think it’s a great idea even for just the two of us. My favorite list item is the “Meal time is family time” because it seems that so few people use meal time to gather together and bond. I need a ‘no cell phones’ rule! Terrific tips.

  3. Fantastic information. It is not just the information you shared that is so great, but the whole concept of looking at food differently. This is true for everyone, not just children. Love it!

  4. I must confess that the try it again is key! My oldest hated eggs as a kid, but around age 8 or so she started to really like them.

    I mean, look at me. I hated zuchinni and it wasn’t until I was 40 years old that I started to love it!

  5. A big amen to this. I do several of these things with the teens and preteens I mentor on the farm when they come out to work with our llamas for their 4-H projects. My parents were both depression era kids and lived through rationing during WW2. They were/are grateful for each meal and the hands that prepared it. They instilled that in me.

    1. Maybe that is where learned some of this! Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents — depression era families! I’m so glad you’re mentoring young adults to learn this!

  6. I think I must have done something right! My kids rarely complained about eating! They ate what was in front of them – if even a little bit. That was ok with me. Today, in their 30s, they all are closer to eating healthier than I am! My daughters were this way in their 20s – so now I learn healthy recipes FROM THEM! Yes, we believed in family time at meals. Sadly, not so much between my husband and I – so I still have work to do to be the example to our kids STILL and the beginnings of grandkids!Picky eaters don’t live here!

  7. We stick to having dinner together as a family almost every night as well. My husband often grumbles about it, but I remind him that this time is extremely important. I grew up with dinner time and he did not! All the books point to dinner time together as the most important. Thanks for the tips on trying new foods. My kids will not eat ANYTHING!!

  8. These are great agreements. My family never had these kind of agreements when I was young. However, I am just grateful that I grew up eating vegetables and fruits. I know that for some, eating those was a problem. I pretty much would eat anything.

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