Kids…One minute they eat everything in sight, and the next they’re throwing their food on the floor. They turn into tiny terrorists demanding cookies for ransom to just eat one bite of carrots (which they loved up until 2 days ago). There is something you can do that will make the whole process a little less painful. Try these 6 words to stop picky eating. It’s life changing, and so simple.
For parents, the fear is real! You try to be a good parent and say “No cookies if you haven’t eaten your dinner”. But, by day 4, they still aren’t eating and the real worry sets in. The internal game of 20 questions begins.
- “Are they eating enough?”
- “What happens if they don’t get enough calories”
- “Am I technically starving my child?!?”
- “When do I give in? And if I give in, is this going to be a regular thing?”
- “How much longer is this going to go on??”
And the list goes on for a mile.
Picky eating is a TOTALLY NORMAL phase for every kid, and they’ll have a lot of them. But, as you probably already know, the fear is that in order to keep balance you accidentally create a bad habit.
There could be any number of reasons why the munchkin doesn’t want to eat. It could be teeth or it could be a developmental phase. Maybe she’s just too busy playing (you know we’ve all been there…too busy and forgot to eat). Or, maybe they aren’t actually hungry.
Here is one truth I know to be true. Kids WILL EAT if they are hungry. Profound, I know.
What I’ve found, more often than not in our case and most of the kids I know, it’s generally because they want a choice. It’s no fun being told what to do all the time. That’s where these 6 magic words come in.
“You don’t have to eat it.”
Boom. You just created a choice for them to make. But wait….there’s more.
There’s a couple healthy ways to handle this sort of situation that won’t turn you into a short order cook (only to have them not eat that too).
Related: 9 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy Food (And Like It!)
Note: If the picky phase has been going on for what you deem too long and/or you are noticing changes in their health and weight, please contact your pediatrician.
Dinner Strategies to Stop Picky Eating
The first is to have dinner as more of a family style sort of affair. Let them know they can have as much or as little as they want of anything that is on the table. With this way, they can make choices, and you still only have to make one meal.
For instance, You have a main dish, and 2 side dishes to choose from and a “salad bar” type of thing. Be sure to include one or two healthy options in there that they normally love. Then it doesn’t become a huge fight. They think they got to pick what they wanted to eat.
We have had many a night where dinner for our girlie was a plate of avocados and cucumbers. She didn’t want anything I actually made. That’s fine. In 2 days she got tired of those and moved on to something else and it all balanced out.
PS Meal planning is a god send for the budget during these phases
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This is the more strict option. You might even remember it from your own childhood. It’s the eat the dinner I made or no dinner option.
Probably not the option you want to present for a week straight but it does have its usefulness in certain situations. There’s more of a fight up front, but as I said, if a kid is hungry they will eat. So, that fight probably won’t last long.
Bribery. There, I said it. I swear, it’s totally valid. However….
I wouldn’t bribe them with a dessert or something they know is a special treat. Rather, use this method as a way to achieve balance when they have a phase of only wanting one food group. Have some dinner item that they love (for mine it’s mandarins, currently) and say “You can have another (mandarin slice) if you eat another bite of _______”. This is not the same as the “one bite” method, it’s having them take another bite of something they are already currently willing to eat; something they already know they like.
For some added motivation on their part, have everyone at the table eat a few bites of whatever this desired food is. This option is particularly useful when the picky phase is going on for a couple weeks or more.
The picky eating phases can definitely be trying on patience. Try one thing for a couple days before giving up and moving on to another one. Even a combination of the options might be the most effective for your family. Good luck!!
Do you have a method that has been effective against picky eating? Tell me about it in the comments!