The KP BTDT Squad will be sharing their experiences and answering two questions per month. Each parent will answer the questions if they can and their answers will be compiled into a feature post to share with readers. These will be general questions that many parents will wonder about as they raise their children. The BTDT Squad will be talking about subjects like potty training, how they dealt with picky eaters, their most favourite family adventures, and how they managed to ever sleep through the night!
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Today’s post is “Mealtime Tricks”
What was your mealtime strategy with slow and/or picky eaters? What worked/didn’t work?
Basically, keep trying foods over and over again. One day she loves something, the next day, it’s on the floor! Also, try cutting it up differently. Mash it up. Sometimes it’s a particular texture she isn’t keen on!
Fortunately, our oldest daughter has always been a good eater – she likes all kinds of meat, fish, and most fruit and veggies (even broccoli! but no onions or mushrooms please!) She is painfully slow at dinnertime, however, and sometimes announces that she is “full” before she really is. So, we try and “count down” the number of bites left. We’ve also made up a game where we all take a “big bite” at the same time! In a pinch, the promise of “dessert” (yoghurt, a cookie, or ice cream) sometimes helps clear the plate!
My oldest is a fairly picky eater our biggest struggle is the fact that he won’t drink milk and has refused since he was 14 months old. My strategy is simple it’s not a war. He is presented the same food as all of us each night at dinner and encouraged to try it if he doesn’t like it oh well. Hes never been fond of vegetables but because he sees us eating them he will often try (and then spit out) and I know eventually his tastes will change and he will try more things. As far as dairy is concerned I make sure he has lots of cheese and yogurt as healthy snacks during the day. I think the most important thing is offering lots of healthy options that they do enjoy and keeping their diet balanced. I encourage him to help me choose foods at the grocery store and as he gets older I will invite him to cook with me which I hope will excite him about the food and encourage him to try.
We added spices to our kids food as soon as they moved onto solids. One of the earliest meals of our first child was smoked chipotle black bean chili. One never knows what impacts a child’s later preferences, but he continues to love adventurous, unusual & spicy food.
Also, we have always had a weekly organic food delivery & our kids help us unpack the groceries (as naked babies they crawled over and through the boxes of food). I think this adds to their curiosity which in turn is enough to get them to at least try pretty much anything.
Mealtime was a huge challenge when my daughter was young. By 15 months old, we were spending hours trying to feed her every day and were lucky to get 2 bites in, literally. She liked milk and ‘crunchies.’ Then one day I put on Baby Einstein’s Sign Language DVD and she stared at it and let me feed her tonnes. This became our routine (only BE’s Sign Language worked) and though I’d never thought I’d feed my child while watching TV, it really worked. After a month or so, she got used to eating a variety of foods. As she got older, we always fed her what we were eating, even if we thought she wouldn’t like it, because, eventually, she would try most things. Also, eating around other kids helped because she would see that they would eat raw carrots or apples with skins and she would try it too.
My son is the pickiest. Peers work really well. If you can find a friend who will eat anything, hang out with them. Also we have a try it 10 times rule. That you have to try something at least 10 times before you can decide that you don’t like it.
What worked: substituting one healthy thing they like in place of something they hated (e.g. carrots instead of cucmbers or vice versa)
What didn’t: trying to get them to stay at the table to finish something they genuinely hated. Winless battle and besided I now realize that there are things I don’t like and I would really have a temper tantrum too if someone made me stay at the table to finish them!
1. We try to sit down and eat as a family as often as possible. 2. We refuse to make our son different food than we’re eating unless it’s something that might be too spicy for him, like curry. 3. We don’t expect him to eat everything on his plate, but praise him when he does. 4. We always offer him a variety of foods, even if he has turned some of them down before. (ie. celery – we put it on his plate whenever we’re having it. Usually he leaves it, but the other day he picked it up, ate it and said “hey, I like celery!”) 5. We omit outside distractions. No TV on during mealtimes and no cell phones at the table. Mealtime is family conversation time. 6. We limit snacking between meals to healthy options only: a piece of fruit, cucumber slices, cheese cubes, yogurt, etc. 7. Finally, when we were introducing solids, we made sure to offer a variety of textures and flavours – avocado mashed with banana was a favourite. As he grew older and developed some dislikes, we made smoothies and let him help add the ingredients. He loved dumping the ground flax seed into his smoothie of frozen blueberries, strawberries, banana, spinach and yogurt.
My son isn’t super picky but sometimes he doesn’t want something. I think it’s no big deal to offer him several healthy options. Sometimes he wants those crunchies graduate snacks, which I use as a special treat for him. Sometimes he refuses any other food and will sign for more crunchies. Those are not healthy and in the beginning he threw a bit of a tantrum. I told him and signed “all done” and told him why he only gets a couple at a time. In the beginning he would be so mad but now he will switch to something else
Our mealtime strategy is still under development. My goal is that the kids try everything on their plates, even if they don’t eat more than a little bite. K is a very picky eater, but we don’t cater to him. We sometime have standoffs, but I rarely make the boys sit at the table to finish dinner – most likely due to memories I have of sitting at the table crying, with a plate of cold broccoli! Neither boy is really slow, but when the table is cleared, dinner is done.
I have adopted my Mother’s attitude toward this one, “Take It or Leave It, but that is all a I am making”. If the kids are hungry they will eat if not they will be ready to eat at the next meal or snack time, however I do expect them to try at least one mouthful. I think children are able to self regulate they are not sophisticated enough to deny their bodies what it craves. It also helps that my husband and I eat everything, so from gestation my kids have been exposed to many flavours. The hands down favourite at our house….Broccoli.
Fortunately, we don’t have picky eaters. They love cooking/backing, actively participate in meal planning and preparation, and are therefore generally happy to eat what they are served. They get to choose breakfast and lunch (usually they get 2-3 options), and pick from a varitey of fruits/veggies to be added to their bags for snacktime. For dinner, we make one meal. They don’t have to eat what we make, but I will not make them anything else. If there is a side dish they really don’t like (such as my daughter doesn’t enjoy mushrooms) they only have to have one bite, but they have to eat most of everything else on their plate. We also talk about the importance of eating good food that has protein/calcium/vitamins to help them get bigger and stronger so that one day they will be tall enough that we can go to Disneyland 🙂
Our girls are usually good eaters. We try to make sure that they have things on their plate (at every meal) that they really enjoy. We will give them a very small portion of new items or less desirable items. We found that forcing them to eat foods they don’t like just seems to make the power struggle last longer. If we just keep offering foods, eventually they try them and occasionally start liking them. If our girls don’t want to eat at a meal (or don’t eat enough), we wrap up the food up (that they like or will eat) and that is what they are given for snack time before they can choose something else.
Personally, I do NOT try to encourage my children to eat more or have good appetites, UNLESS it is clear that they are underweight. I believe this justs works against them later in life when they naturally begin to like more and more foods.
I provide a variety of healthy foods and allow them to say “No thank you” to most things. I do require that they obey me when I do ask them to try a new food, or to eat a small amount of something I think they need or should be able to get used to, but I really do not focus on this very much. If my children clearly do not like a certain food, I ask them only to try it (without complaining), and I tell them that their tastes WILL change and so to expect that I will ask them to try it every few months to see if they grow to like it better. They seem to feel this is reasonable and that eliminates most of the problems.If a child is extremely picky, I do not cook a special meal for that child. They will normally pick at whatever I have made but, I also make sure there is. NO desserts or snacks if a child is too picky. A hungry child WILL eat foods that may not be his favorites. I have found this also helps teach them to eat what is served to them in another persons home. But if they truly do not like something I require them to be polite at the table (not say the food is yucky, etc, etc).
I took some very deliberate steps as my children have grown to prevent picky eating, and I guess it worked. My kids eat (almost) everything.
Right from infancy I offered them a wide variety of healthy foods, especially all kinds of vegetables. If they didn’t seem to like it I would offer again, repeatedly. Most foods grew on them over time.
I didn’t let my own preferences get in the way. I exposed them to foods I don’t like, and try to not appear picky in front of them. I will even admit to them when I don’t really like something, but that I eat it anyway knowing it is good for me. Children tend to mimic parental behavior.
I never make an alternate meal. Never, ever.
As they get older (mine are seven and eight) they enjoy learning what their food is doing for their bodies. If they’re not enjoying their meal, you can point to various things on their plate, “that helps you grow strong muscles,” “that has vitamins that will keep your vision sharp.” Kids are smart and curious and can understand that junk foods lack the essential building blocks for a healthy body.
I’ve been very lucky with my 4 not to have any consistently picky eaters. I have however had each of my children go through stages of very picky. To the point of refusing to eat anything at times. I have found that for my kids the more I would push them to eat, the more they wouldn’t want to eat. I normally will deal with this by ignoring it. I offer healthy choices and they choose what they want to eat. My only rule is that they have to try what I put on their plate. If they try it and really don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. I don’t offer any other choices though, what they have is what they have! I also don’t try to remember what they didn’t like and not make it anymore either. I just continue to offer different things to them. It’s amazing how many foods they have hated in the past and now love! I have read that it takes trying a food at least 8 times before a child knows if they like it. Maybe it’s luck,but I have 4 children who eat very well!
I feel like this is one area of parenting where I have not been successful at maintaining my approach. Some days it feels like we have tried everything to have our children finish their dinners. There is usually something on their plate that they don’t like, but we expect them to eat at least a bite. The big issue for us is daaaawwwwdling. We have now taken a timer and set it for a reasonable amount of time to finish their meals. If they do not finish, there will be no dessert and the meal will be available to them if they are hungry. If they finish, they can have dessert (if it is offered). We strive for consistency with the rush of family activities so this will be interesting to watch play out as we head back to work/school.
I think it’s important with children that we incorporate them in the planning of meals (ask them what they want ect) and meal preparation.
Mealtime stategy for picky eaters: We always require our children to take and eat a no thank you helping. This is only one teaspoon full of the food in question. After the no thank you helping, they do not have to have any more. Nine times out of ten they realise that the food in question is actually good and ask for more.We try to teach the children to be grateful that we have plenty to eat. The children have turns to help cook and everyone usually compliments the cooks. We never make a scene about eating food. Mealtime is family time where we are all together; we sing, pray, talk, joke, and eat. (Believe me, our children are not starving.)
We usually make our children at least try one bite of something new even if they declare ,” I hate this!”
Slow Eating or saying they are “full” : After they have finished the majority of their meal if our children say they are full we ask them to take at least as many bites as how old they are. If that doesn’t work and they refuse, we then save the food for the next meal time. By saving it they can have another opportunity to finish it then.
Elizabeth is a Kamloops lifer. Born at RIH, she is happy to be raising her family here. Married with four wonderful children, Elizabeth is also teacher and enjoys working with parents as she learns more about this “Mommy gig”. Elizabeth is passionate about parenting and enjoys networking with other parents.