When you’re a mum, you're likely to fall into one of two camps. There are those with kids who are good eaters, and those with kids who are faddy, fussy and picky when it comes to food.
For anyone who falls into the latter camp, family mealtimes can often feel like a struggle. It’s not just having to make allowances at home and cooking alternatives; once the children get to a certain age, it gets a bit awkward when you still have a list of things they don’t or won’t eat when going to a friend’s for tea, or if you’re all going to someone else’s for dinner.
There’s no magic formula for getting picky eaters to suddenly become less so. However, that doesn't mean you should give up. We’ve got some strategies to encourage kids to try new foods. Success may not be instantaneous, but eventually, you'll get results.
Let them help in the kitchen
We all do baking with the kids from a very young age, learning how to make fairy cakes and biscuits. Sure, it often creates a bit of mess and havoc, but that’s all part of the fun. However, we can’t get by on sweet treats all the time, as much as we’d all like to!
If you’re finding the kids putting up resistance to a new dish that you’ve made, then see if helping to make it
changes their point of view. Knowing what has gone into a meal reassures them that it’s not as weird and strange as they might think if it’s just presented to them at dinnertime. Plus, there’s the pride aspect - if they get praised for helping to cook the dinner and parents tell them how delicious it is, then they’re more likely to eat some of it too.
Choose relatively simple dishes to get started - like chicken tacos
. Part of the appeal is that much of this meal is assembled at the table, with kids being able to add different dips, salad or sauce as they choose. Or why not a one-pan meal, like a Spanish frittata. You can get plenty of fresh veggies in this omelette in disguise! You can move onto more involved cooking later on.
Though it’s not something you’d do every night, there’s a real “treat” element of ordering take-out food, especially when you get it delivered. There’s the anticipation of waiting once you’ve placed the order. Use this time to get the kids to lay the table and get some drinks ready! Finally, there’s the excitement of when it arrives and answering the door to the delivery guy (or gal), and unpacking all the boxes.
You could give the kids more or less free rein on what they choose, as long as it’s something that they haven’t eaten before and it’s not just a pudding! Leave the choice wide open or pick a theme like having a Spanish night
and ordering a whole heap of tasty tapas for the family.
Let the kids decide
Have a night a week where the children decide what’s for dinner
. OK, it might not always be what you feel like eating, but isn’t that how they feel most of the time? Giving them the choice to decide helps them feel like the balance of power is a little more equal than when mum decides everything for them. If they want beans on toast instead of that chicken casserole you had in mind, go with it! If you can show you’re willing to compromise, it demonstrates to the kids that they need to be able to do this too.
You might have to exercise the power of veto if they’re making crazy choices that don’t include anything particularly nutritious, but even then, we can all eat something a bit whacky now and then. Who says hotdogs don’t go with pasta, after all? Don't knock it until you've tried it!
Having a picky eater (or two) in the household needn't be a permanent problem. Mixing up mealtimes a little and being flexible might encourage some changes on the kids’ part too, and if you've got time and a little patience on your side, a few subtle changes can go a long way.