As a kid, I was the pickiest eater you’d ever meet. Most things that had a nutritional value also had the wrong colour, texture, smell, shape, you name it. Apart from sweets and food that was basically not food, my diet could’ve consisted weirdly of only prosciutto, olives and bread.
To be honest, if you add wine, my diet could probably still consist of prosciutto, olives and bread nowadays and I would be OK with it.
Seriously though, I still remember how stressful mealtimes could be, and now, with my nieces, nephews and friends with children, I see that many still struggle with the same problem.
So, I decided to ask around and compile the best advice they had to share, to help make mealtimes a little more peaceful.
Here we go…
- Routine. I start with this one because it was pretty much on everyone’s list. I was also able to witness it in real-time when I stayed with my sister and her two children over the summer. Dinner on a regular school night was much easier than dinner during the holidays. There were also much more snacking between meals during the holidays, which contributed to bigger tantrums at dinner time.
- Be creative. Not only with Pinterest worthy lunchboxes, if that’s your thing, but with presenting ingredients differently. A broccoli floret can definitely be a tree suck in a hill of mashed potatoes, right? It can also be fully blended and hidden in a casserole.
- Respect your kid’s appetite (or lack of it). Sometimes, they’re just not hungry. Try not to force ‘finishing everything on the plate’ and give them a little freedom over how much they want to put on the plate. You will probably get the ‘But, I’m only hungry for cake’ situation too. I know I get that quite often!
- Make mealtime fun. This one goes along with being creative but also with freedom, and is particularly helpful with introducing new foods. If you have the time, let the children explore the different foods at their own pace, in a relaxed and stress-free environment.
- Dessert is not a reward. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or even redefine dessert as fruit, yoghurt or other healthy choices.
- Ask for their help in planning meals. OK, I know the supermarket can be a minefield and if you have the chance and sometimes prefer to go grocery shopping alone, the this is definitely a skippable part. However, when at home, recruit your children’s help on planning meals, washing vegetables and fruit, and other tasks that make them feel involved.
- Be the example. Try also increasing your consumption of healthy foods like vegetables and enjoying them at meals and as snacks in front of your child. Making healthy eating the norm in your household and letting your kids watch you eating nutritious foods can help them gain the confidence to try them as well. Also, you know they ALWAYS want what you’re eating anyway.
- Contact a specialist. While picky eating in children is common, if you feel that you need a professional’s input on your child’s picky eating behaviour, contact a paediatrician or a nutritionist that specialises in paediatrics.