1. Take your picky eaters to the farmer market.
Walking around at a farmer market is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Strike up conversations with the vendors about growing crop, how they cook their food, and how they feed their animals. Ask your children to choose the vegetables, fruit, or meat to purchase. This might help them gain a better appreciation of where the food on their plate comes from.
2. Ask your picky eaters to help you cook meals.
Involve your child in the preparation of food. With younger kids and toddlers, your kitchen will surely become very messy in the process, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. When they help with the chopping, the seasoning, and the baking, they might become more willing to try the food. Even if they still refuse to eat, at least they’ll understand the work that goes into making the meal and they’ll be more respectful of it.
There are several great books out there about cooking with kids. Kids in the Kitchen gives some great ideas of how to cook with with kids from 18 months to 9 years old. For older kids, try Kids’ Fun & Healthy Cookbook and The Kid’s Cookbook.
3. Identify the food on their plates.
A plate filled with unrecognizable food can be very scary for a young person. When you place the plate in front of them, make sure to identify everything on their plate. Tell them how you cooked it and what it will taste like (sweet, savory, salty, bitter, etc).
4. Don’t become a short order cook.
Don’t give up and cook another meal for them. This shows them that you’re willing to cook something else… so why should they ever eat what you offer if they can simply request their favorite meal instead? Just tell them that they don’t have to eat if they don’t want to, but you won’t be cooking anything else. If you’re concerned that they’ll go hungry, include a side dish that you know they’ll enjoy.
5. Dinner is a sit-down event.
Try to make time for a sit-down dinner at least a few times a week. This makes dinner an event into itself, a time for the whole family to just eat and talk. Try your best to make dinnertime a positive time for everyone, not a battle over food.
6. Offer it again… and again.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Sometimes it takes a few tries and refuses before a child finally eats something new. Picky eaters need to get acclimated to the taste and smell and look of a new food before they finally embrace it.
7. Tell your picky eaters that they won’t always be picky.
Above all, don’t tell your kids that they’re picky eaters. They’ll probably take that label and run with it. They’ll believe that they’re picky eaters and that they can’t help it. They might be less wiling to change their eating habits. Instead, say things like, “I understand you don’t want to eat it right now, but someday you will like these food just like your parents! Your tongue will get used to the taste and you’ll love it.” Your kids DO want to be just like you, believe it or not.
Happy cooking! For some fast and easy dinner ideas, check out Four Quick 30-Minute Paleo Dinners in 5 Steps.