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Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

Do you have a picky eater? Do you spend mealtimes negotiating and battling, trying to come up with new, fun food ideas? When you get desperate maybe you even beg and bribe? And maybe once or twice you’ve said something along the lines of: “Fine. You win. Survive on crackers if you want. See if I care.”

You are not alone. There are entire Web sites and books dedicated to coping with picky eaters. And not just a few Web sites and books. A lot of them.

Oh, some of you say you don’t have picky eaters? Good for you! How lovely! But don’t get too high on your horse, over there. Once you brag about having a child who eats every vegetable you put on the plate, I promise you tomorrow that child will refuse to eat anything that is not white and cut into hexagons and presented in a hand-painted bowl from Peru. This post is for you, too. One day you’ll need it.

So this is the question: How do you deal with a picky eater without losing your mind? You can be sneaky, which I'm not a fan of because it does not teach kids proper eating habits. Or you can get creative, try to remain calm, and try some of these tips and tricks (which were all gleaned from friends, books, Web sites, and hard-earned experience):

  • Limit snacking in between meals. Make sure they have an appetite for their real meals.
  • Let them choose between two items so they have a sense of control. If you give more choices than that, you are asking for a meltdown.
  • Do not force food. Do not fight. Let them choose to eat. You don't want them negatively associating with food.
  • Make it fun. Tell them that eating carrots will give them laser vision, drinking milk will give them strong bones, spinach will give them muscles like Popeye, etc.
  • Read them books that teach them about healthy foods, such as I Can Eat a Rainbow or Eating the Alphabet.
  • Cook with them. If they help in the preparation, they almost always want to eat it. Check out Web sites like Cooking With Kids, childrensrecipes.com and Food Network for recipe ideas.
  • Take them to the grocery store and let them choose healthy foods. It’s even better if you can take them to a local farmers market, if possible. (Though most of us have to wait until the snow clears for that luxury.)
  • When having family meals, serve yourself first. Don't pay any attention to your children until they want some and then feign surprise and offer them some.
  • Have family meals.
  • Be a good role model. If your children see you enjoying your meals, eating healthy and trying a variety of food, they will learn to do the same.
  • Remind yourself that they will eat. When they get hungry enough, they will always eat. Do not pull your hair out over it. It’s very hard to put back in, after all.

With Love,


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