You made dinner and once again nobody wanted to try it or said it was “yucky” after the first bite….whats a parent to do???
Being a parent I know how frustrating it can be to feed babies and toddlers delicious, healthy meals and it can become either a battle of will for them to not eat or try anything new.
Here are some simple solutions to try with your kids to entice them to eat a variety of foods that are healthier.
Establish A Routine- We are so busy running out the door these days that kids are eating on the go, in car seats and whenever we can cram a snack into them. Having a set breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner routine will make your little ones feel more secure knowing what is to come next.
I know for us if we don’t have breakfast or dinner on time my kids are climbing the walls. I find the first meal of the day and the last are important with getting kids up and ready for the day and dinner is the key routine before settling down for the night. Snacks don’t always need to be on time but they should have some sort of routine as to expect it either after breakfast or after lunch when nap time is over.
Avoid Food Rewards- This one is tough as I’ve done it myself. You’re trying to get through the grocery store with your kids in tow and the last thing you want is an epic meltdown. You pass them cookies, juice boxes, crackers and even candy to then discover the sugar has kicked in and they are even worse.
When grocery shopping try to entice them with a toy, possibly a reward of a new coloring book or get them to help put items in the cart and choose between the red or green apples.
If you have a willful baby or toddler and you reward with food they may hold off on eating regular meals and instead wait for the treat as they know you may cave as you are worried they aren’t eating anything.
Put Your Taste Aside- We all have preferences over different foods. When it comes to letting your baby, toddler or kids make a decision about eating a new food, try not to display your like or dislike to the food as it may impede their judgement that they also do not like it before they have even tried it.
Some children will like a food for a certain amount of time then all of a sudden they will dislike it and you may have to just let that go for awhile. The opposite is also true, some children disliked a food as a baby and then all of a sudden they decide in toddler-hood or even childhood that they now like it.
Forgo Forcing A Child To Eat- This is the extreme side of getting a child to eat when they may be picky. I would highly avoid getting into this trap as a child may use it as a power struggle, it can also spur on eating disorders later into life where they feel they need to clean their plates constantly even when full out of guilt.
Instead, see it as a momentary thing and that the child may be dealing with some strong emotions such as a new baby, a move or something different in their life. Just like adults, we can loose our appetites when we are feeling strong emotions or going through a faze where food doesn’t seem interesting to us.
Illness is one reason children may stop eating, think about when you have the cold or flu. Do you really feel like eating something when you cannot smell or taste?
“NO THANKS!!” – When your child or toddler is just flat out not wanting what you made do not fret. We all have strong opinions and sometimes children just wanted macaroni instead of the grilled salmon you made. Sometimes just for the sake of the family parents will remake food and cater to their children’s preferences.
If this happens on a regular basis where your having to make two separate meals then you need to stop and ask yourself if your doing too much compromising. Children will eat when they are hungry and sometimes they may have to learn a lesson and go without. Most children will ask to go without the food and then will try and eat it later when they are hungry.
A good compromise to this strong opinion is to ask the child or toddler ahead of time what side dish they may like with dinner. Do you want the roasted potatoes you like or the pasta salad this time? Having the choice to state an opinion will help get the child to feel involved and to also put something in their tummies.
Family Choices- One good way to get your kids to eat more is to take them to the grocery store and help you pick out their favorite fruits and veggies. When kids have a choice they feel part of the team, this also goes for cooking and setting up for meals and snacks.
When it is meal time in our house, my toddler picks the plates and my preschooler will get the drinks and bibs ready. I then ask them which yogurt flavor or which fruit they would like. Sometimes I even incorporate them into snack and meal times so they feel like they are participating and making a decision in parts of their life.
When kids are older and able to mix, slice and prep foods with you then certainly involve them in the dinner or lunch making routine. I love to get my preschool son to bake shortbread cookies with me as its priceless to see his face light up as we mix the dough, cut the shapes and bake them together.
Let It G0- Like the song says from Frozen “Let it go, let it go” sometimes we just need to do exactly that. Kids know when we want them to do what we want and they dig their heals in even more. Trust me I have had my days where one of my kids didn’t eat for 3 days straight!!
At some point or another they will eat out of sheer hunger and trust me that urge is stronger than their will to stop eating all together. The best idea is to keep the routine of food going, offer as you normally would with choices, have them sit with the family and if they do not eat after a set amount of time then take it away and offer it again at the next meal.
Too Much Flavor- Even though as adults we prefer spicy, sweet and salty or combined flavors that are rich, sometimes kids are so overwhelmed with too may flavors going on in a dish. I don’t know about you but I have made countless meals that I thought my kids would like to find they find it to overwhelming and say they don’t like it.
My suggestion if you are making a curry, casserole, soup or a stew is to simplify the ingredients for the kids. I would pull out part of the meat and potato and set aside for my kids before I would add more spices to the dish. If I was making a curry I would give my kids the chicken with naan cut up and sauce on the side for dipping. It still means you can make the same dish but give it to your little ones simplified before it becomes a spicy or rich meal they may not eat.