FIVE TIPS THAT HELP US DEAL WITH OUR PICKY EATERS & A BONUS KID-LOVERS RECIPE INSIDE
I'll be sharing some of the tips & tricks we use, as a family of five, to enjoy dinner together at the table. I’m even sharing a bonus picky eater recipe that you can make with your little one today! I’m a big advocate of kids in the kitchen so take it from me, this is something your little one can prepare & enjoy. If they don’t enjoy it today, try again & hopefully it’ll be a family dinner staple soon!
One of my earliest memories growing up was the time we spent together as a family, around the dinner table. I'm not sure if it was every night or every once in a while. I don't remember the times my parents were disengaged & we ate in the car, no. Which I'm sure was sometimes the case. Rather the memories that stuck were the ones of all you can eat bread & butter, what seemed like a black hole of pasta noodles & my tired dad looking over at me with a smiley grin. My job was to set the table & I remember taking it very seriously. The traditional 'American' supper, as I experienced it as a child, has now become one of my favorite motherhood duties. Dinner, as a family, at the table is something I realize won't last forever, yet it seems almost impossible to enjoy it because of the whining, complaining & refusal of what's for dinner.
I'm always experiencing a learning curve in all things motherhood, but I've found some helpful tips, from articles, books & experience & I love sharing them with all of you, through the blog. Here I'm providing some tips on how to get your kids to sit at the table & eat.
I was an extremely picky eater & my kids are too. I'm excited to share some tips that have helped us work through picky eating.
We try to make something for everyone.
I know this sounds insane & like loads of work, but hear me out. We make a lot of the same recipes round + round for a few different reasons. First, it's because we incorporate them into a meal plan, second it's a way to save money & last, it keep everyone happy most of the time because it's predictable. I'm not saying to make 5 different meals for each person, rather incorporate things you know each one of the kids will eat.
Take this advice from a mom with three small kids, if we're having breakfast burritos for dinner, one of my kids is likely to eat the bacon & eggs, the other tortillas & shredded cheese & the other everything else.
I find my kids eat better if they don't feel pressured to eat everything on the table, or their plates. Our oldest stopped eating black beans for a long time & last night asked for seconds, so there's proof that if it keeps showing up, they'll eventually ask for it again (fingers crossed).
Incorporate fruit & veggies into every meal, but take them to the store & let them pick their own.
Things started to turn around when we started letting the kids pick their own fruits & veggies. I don't think I should be judged for liking apples & not oranges & I don't think they should either. We like to shop at Sprouts & get what's in season & what's on sale, 'cause #budgetingmama.
I realized I had to change my perspective when my dreams of having kids that ate bell pepper & radishes just weren't a reality for my kiddos. There are so many fruits & veggies to choose from & I thought it would be fun to let the kiddos explore the produce section themselves, with our help. The kids had fun & it's now we've adopted this as the norm on our grocery shopping trips. It is a lot of work, but the reward of seeing your kiddos enjoy what their eating is worth it. Having them eat their fruits & (most of the time) their veggies & it reminds me to eat mine too!
Fruit is a great substitute for dessert & tames my sweet tooth, on most nights. The kiddos will almost never deny fruit & it reinforces more natural food choices.
2. We try to pick dish that let us separate the food & have them fill each in each section with healthy, good & fun food items.
For some reason, my kids eat better when each item has its own home. I learned the concept of healthy, good & fun food choices from an article I read awhile back. I try to have them put the healthy option in the biggest portion of the plate, it reminds us that healthy is a priority & should be the biggest part of our diets. I’m learning that teaching them (especially my strong willed ones), instead of forcing them to do this has helped our relationship over the long haul. They are still small kiddos & we have many years to go, but I’m hoping that we’re both learning together & can incorporate these tips into our healthy eating habits in the future.
3. We try to make it fun & incorporate the kids into meal preparation.
From adding pretty much everything to a kabob, to letting the older kids flip the pancakes, we really do try & involve our kids in meal preparation. They're more than likely to enjoy the fruits of their labor (no pun intended) & feel ownership over their creations, especially when it comes to food.
We love making pancakes together, along with our Chipotle style lime rice (easy recipe below!), heating black beans & they love to season things, even if they don’t eat it, I encourage any help & exposure to different foods. Eventually, like other things, they’ll be asking to eat the cooked onion, or whatever else they’ve been cooking up their entire childhoods.
We love this kid's cookbook & have even incorporated it into our homeschool curriculum.
4. We serve dessert with dinner.
I know this sounds crazy, believe me. If anyone is stressing about their kids having too much sugar, it’s me! Let me explain.
When I realized my oldest wasn't enjoying her meals & really only eating her 'healthy items' to get dessert, I knew we needed to change things a bit. She would shove food in her mouth & then say, “I’m ready for my dessert!!”. In other words, okay mom, reward me. The reward of eating healthy should come naturally & not in the form of a dessert item. (side note: this is all my opinion & I’m not a health professional).
I read a few articles on how to get kids to eat less sugar & healthier food choices, etc & one concept that really stood out to me was to feed them dessert with their dinner. All of the articles I read seemed to say that picky eating is only a phase & that emotions shouldn't play a role in food choices. I incorporated this concept into dinnertime & quickly realized the kids weren't as stressed about whether or not they were going to be rewarded for eating.
With all of that being said, we're not opposed to an ice cream cone after school or some candy here & there. You have to remember I homeschool my kids so any school party or whatever else they’re missing out on is something we try to do here, at home. I want my kids to remember that momma practiced moderation. We're always working towards eating less sugar & it's progress over perfection. So now, the reward is how we feel after making healthier choices, not the dessert we get to eat.
You can find kid-friendly snack ideas here.
You can find our tri-tip teriyaki bowl recipe here.
I hope you find some encouragement in knowing that seasons change & we were probably all once picky eating kids at the dinner table. My fondest memories are of my parents offering me healthy choices but allowing me to have some of the control over what went in my belly. I hope you give grace to yourself as a parent and/or caregiver along with giving your kids grace for whatever changes they may be going through. Growing takes a lot of energy & I feel like most of their aches & pains can be soothed with some TLC from mom & dad. Happy eating!
You can find kid-friendly, healthy snack ideas here!
You can get all of our easy dinner ideas here!
I’m a busy mom & pride myself on making dinner simple & not complicated. I’m always up for suggestions, please share your easy dinner recipe ideas and/or hacks in the comments section below!
Here are some items we use in our kitchen.
We love these dish towels
We have these kid knives.
We have these measuring cups
This is fun for the littles, for pretend play!
With grace & coffee,
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