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Picky Eaters: 10 Tips to Happier Mealtimes

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Picky Eaters: 10 Tips for Happier Mealtimes.

IMG 0115 224x300 Picky Eaters: 10 Tips for Happier Mealtimes.So tonight my knowledge and patience were tested to a level I barely got through.  It started with my daughter coming home from first grade VERY cranky or should I say needy.  I can’t blame her….really I can’t.  It was a busy weekend and she went to bed a little too late the last few nights.  She was hungry AND is still adjusting to being gone all day 8:10 until almost 4:00!  Compared to the 2 1/2 hour K program she was in last year, an 8 hour day is exhausting.

I was trying to wrap a few things up at my desk before our nanny, Liz,  left for the day and she refused to let anybody else get her a snack BUT ME.  Then she got mad at me and Liz and her brother and her baby sister for really no reason at all.   She needed attention and I sadly couldn’t give it to her.  Scratch that…I should have made her a priority, taken a few minutes to get her a healthy snack and give her some extra love THEN wrapped up my work.

My rational:  because she was whining and acting very pouty and mean in my office, I just didn’t want her to think that she would get what she wanted acting like that.
{Lesson Learned: To get love, you must give love.}

I then made dinner- a Mandarin Orange Chicken Dish (my husband’s favorite) that I thought my kids would like-WRONG!  My kids like mandarin oranges, occasionally like chicken and rice isn’t something we serve regularly.  The combination of all three together…NOT happening.  Except for my 2 year old who will pretty much eat anything.  I mean anything.  In fact, she asked me for Tuna on pizza night last week.  What?!

Anyway, my two oldest kids are the pickiest eaters.  They pretty much won’t eat meat- except bacon (which is technically a fat!)  They won’t eat hot dogs (full of Nitrates anyway) or chicken nuggets (processed chicken) food I just don’t serve. When we go to friends homes or visit family and they offer “normal” for their kids foods, my kids don’t eat.  My daughter has always had texture issues and has literally puked at the table trying watermelon!

It’s very frustrating and then I have to listen to advice like, “Just make them eat what’s on the table!” or “Are you really going to let them just eat cheese and crackers?  You’re a Nutritionist right?”

Yes, as a Registered Dietitian, I know what to do. I know How to Raise Good Eaters:

(See: Other Good Books) Picky Eaters: 10 Tips for Happier Mealtimes.

I know that it can take kids 15-20 times to try a new food.  I know that pressuring kids to eat something is NOT a good idea.  There are tricks and techniques I know how to implement to make mealtime a happy time.  And eventually, in their own time, I know my kids will expand their palates.  While I can tell you how to implement these techniques at your dinner table, I am not perfect.

So here are ten healthy eating tips for your picky children.  Learn from my own mistakes this evening…Let’s not make our dinner tables a battlefield.  Meal times should be a happy time to bond and connect with our kids, not another chore.

1) Be Patient- it can take 15-20 times for a child to see and taste a food to happily accept and eat it.

2)  Offer new foods, but also have a few familiar foods your kids like on the table as well.  Don’t make two meals, just offer some familiar with some not familiar.  Yes, even if your child just eats milk and bread.  Let him/her choose.

3) As noted above- No Pressure!   Meals should be positive, not a chore.  Mealtimes are not about control.  And remember to leave any stress from work or your day at the office or outside on the step.  You’ll do much better with #1 and #3.

4) Have regular meals and healthy structured snacks.  You want your child to be hungry but not starved (AKA emotional) at mealtime.  Mealtimes should be happy.  Regular mealtimes can be tricky to establish with busy schedules, but make it a priority.

5) Let your kids watch you be a leader at the table- eat healthy foods you would like to see them try.  Ask,  “Would you like some broccoli?” And if they say, “yuck!” (See #6)

6) Teach and remind your children how to respond with manners if they do not want to try something or if they don’t like something.  Saying, “This is grouse!” is not acceptable so if they do that- correct them and teach them to say, “No Thank-you.” (See #7)

{My mistake tonight: After listening to my oldest too hungry child cry for an hour after school my patience was on empty.  My sweet kind daughter was literally screaming, “If you make me eat CHICKEN- I WON’T like you anymore!” I have taught her how to say no thank-you.  But because she was feeling pressure from me saying, “I made this special for you tonight” she was acting out.  She also felt my impatience and didn’t want to disappoint me.  She’s a people pleaser.}

7)  Teach your child how to spit out food in a napkin if they don’t like it after trying it.  If a child doesn’t know how to react if they don’t like it, it’s scary for them.

{My daughter said to me tearfully tonight, “Mommy, if I don’t like it what do I do?”  She was scared.}

8)  Remember, nobody is perfect.  Work on the what YOU need to work on.  And if you are like me sitting on the couch having flashbacks of a horrible dinnertime experience, simply apologize and say sorry to your child in the morning if you were a bully or trying to guilt trip them into eating something (that is…if they are old enough to understand.)

IMG 0529 224x300 Picky Eaters: 10 Tips for Happier Mealtimes.9)  Get your child involved in grocery shopping and meal prep- table setting, mixing, stirring, cracking eggs.

10) Teach your children when you are not at the table the importance of eating healthy colorful foods.  Explain to your kids that eating fruits and vegetables make them strong and healthy.  Tell them they will run faster and feel like a super hero.

Bonus tip # 11 Check out Ellyn Satter’s books (She’s a Childhood Nutrition Expert) for more tips on “mastering family meals.”

What kind of challenges do you have at your dinner-table?

 Picky Eaters: 10 Tips for Happier Mealtimes.

Diva Dietitian

Kristie Finnan is a Registered Dietitian/Licensed Nutritionist, Freelance Writer and Published Children's Author. She is the Mom of 3 and Food Snob with a passion for Nutrition Education, Healthy Kids Foods, Marketing and Social Media. Kristie is the Creative Director/Editor for www.DivaDietitian.com and www.KidsLoveFood.com & Founder of www.DoylestownNutrition.com. Diva Dietitian blogs in Full Disclosure. Please see: http://kristiefinnan.com/about/disclosure.

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