By Guest Blogger Lisa Holcomb
Got picky kids when it comes to food, at least nutritious food? Do your kids try to crawl under the table when they see broccoli on the table? Do they try to slip the dog their squash only to find the dog won’t eat it either? You’re not alone! It seems to be a fairly common phenomenon among households with kids. And, not just young children either. Older kids can be picky eaters as well.
I have been blessed with having both teenagers and younger kids, all at the same time. Both age groups with different dietary needs and different likes and dislikes when it comes to food. My teenage boys are athletic, physical, and growing boys. Even though they both look full grown (at 6 feet tall), they are still growing and their bodies, inside and outside, need the right foods to help them with this.
My two younger children have different needs, both physically and emotionally when it comes to food. They are both adopted, and we have had to learn the challenges of dealing with children who have had to go hungry in their past. Hunger can do many things to you emotionally. We have had to help our children understand that they won’t ever go hungry again. That they don’t need to hoard food or overeat. It hasn’t been an easy journey, and it will be a long road ahead, but we are trying to help them understand by always having nutritious meals and snacks (and sometimes not so nutritious snacks just for the fun of it) made available to them.
All of my kids are different eaters with different palates. My 15 year old son has a sweet tooth that never seems to end. I think sweet TEETH is more like it! It’s a constant struggle to get him to lay off the sweets. My 18 year old, on the other hand, could really care less about sweets. My 8 and 9 year old are very food-focused and just want to eat. And I cannot blame them, given their background.
In the process of raising 6 kids (2 of mine are already grown so they and their taste buds are on their own), I’ve come up with some strategies that have helped my family over the years. It is now my business at BuildAMenu.com.
Here are 10 Tips To Help You With Your Picky Eaters:
1. Respect their appetites – If they really aren’t hungry, don’t try to force them to eat. Don’t bribe them to clean their plates. And please don’t use the starving children act. Likewise, if your child has a tendency toward overeating, help him or her to understand what it means to be full. We quite often ask one of our younger ones, “is your tummy comfortable?” That’s when you need to stop. Do not make them feel guilty or bad for how little or much they eat.
2. Encourage but don’t force- Encourage kids to try new foods but don’t force it on them. They’ll just hate that zucchini even more. When our 15 year old was younger, he would never eat his spaghetti with the sauce. Just the noodles. We kept telling him he was missing out on the best part. One day we asked him to try a little taste of the sauce and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to eat it. He obliged and took a tiny little taste. Then he grabbed up the spoon and started eating the sauce straight from the pan. Stinker has been eating sauce on his spaghetti ever since.
3. Let them help with the meal planning- That’s the most fun part for in my menu planning service. After the menus are out for that week, I will let the whole family decide what we are eating for the week. It makes a huge difference when they have had a say so on what to eat. They don’t always agree, but we manage.
4. Let them help with the cooking- I hear moms say that they would love to let their kids help in the kitchen but they don’t want to deal with the extra mess. Well, put on your big girl pants and deal with it! It’s a great bonding time, a time to teach kids responsibility (you helped make the mess, you help clean). Additionally, if they cook it, they are much more likely to eat it. Trust me, it works.
5. Have fun with meals- My family LOVES breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, waffles, omelets, you name it. Try having special dipping sauces (Ranch dressing works wonders) for veggies at meal times and snack times. For some reason, kids love to dip their food in things.
6. Give them their own cookbook- There are a lot of cookbooks out there that are geared to kids of all ages. My younger boys love to look at the pictures and plan out the things they are going to make. My youngest one now wants his own apron, chef hat and cooking show too. Hmmm….
7. Become friends with the smoothie- Do you know how much you can hide in a simple smoothie? Lots. And, your little picky eaters will never know the difference. You can pack a lot of nutrition in a smoothie. So what if it’s consumed through a straw?
8. Set the example- You can’t get your little mini me’s to eat nutritiously when they see you eating McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts. Not that I don’t love donuts. Because I do. I really LOVE donuts. However, donuts aren’t the norm for us. Set the example by making nutritious eating a priority in your own life. Let them SEE you eating healthy food. You set the example… it comes from the top.
9. Pizza, Fries, Sodas, Oh My! Teenagers are notorious for wanting to live off junk. Mine are no exception. They want their bodies to look good so they can strut their stuff, but they want to eat junk. As a parent of teens, it can be a real challenge once they start going off on their own more and more. You aren’t always there to control what they are eating. Plan on having as many sit-down meals as possible (sitting down at your own table and not McDonalds) during the week. Your family needs the bonding time as well as the proper nutrition they receive from home-cooked meals.
10. Relax- Don’t be the nutrition/food police . It’s ok (really it is) to have a donut every now and then. The occasional candy bar is ok in my book as well. What you don’t want is to make it the norm. However, life is just too short to go through it without Cookies and Cream Ice Cream. Speaking of….I think I hear some Blue Bell Ice Cream calling me…
Life is about enjoying the yummy things, and being smart at the same time. Your grandma was right– MODERATION is key!
About Lisa Holcomb…
Lisa Holcomb lives near Austin, Texas with her husband, Will, and their four boys, ages 8-17 (her oldest two children are married and have babies of their own, and Lisa & Will’s two youngest boys are adopted). Lisa has a degree in Child and Family Development and is a strong advocate for family meal time. Lisa is the co-founder of BuildAMenu.com that helps families keep their grocery budget under control and helps bring families back to the dinner table. She has done much research on the positive effects and benefits of families that eat meals together, as well as the negative effects not eating together as a family can have on children and teens, and is educating families on her research. Her mission is that Build A Menu will be able to bring family meal times back to the table. A portion of all the proceeds from Build A Menu goes towards orphan care ministries.
Are YOUR kids picky eaters? I know I struggle greatly, and sit on the fence almost daily with what to cook, and how to satisfy all the different palates. How do you deal with your picky eaters? Please share some of your challenges or tips.
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