Mar 11, 2011

Got picky eaters? How to get them to eat.

My 5 year old claims she likes salad and vegetables...

That usually consists of maybe snacking on 2 baby carrots and a few leaves of lettuce out of her bowl.  Sometimes with French dressing, sometimes just plain...  That is her view of a salad.  She claims to her teachers and her friends that she eats healthy -- That would be her opinion of "healthy".  

Both of my kids are very picky eaters.  Their meals are very predictable.  Once they wake up my oldest usually eats toast, waffles or pancakes before she goes to school.  Usually.  There are days where she just doesn't want to eat and breakfast is a battle.  Occasionally I win the battle, but more often than not I end up just packing her more of a snack and send her off to school.  Battling with your kids is exhausting and sometimes you just have to pick your battles.  

If she's going to have a snack at 10:30 AM is breakfast that important?  Well, yes, but I justify it to myself so I feel better about packing her a heftier snack. (Which most of it usually ends up coming home anyway.)  

My youngest usually has a bowl of cereal, waffles or pancakes for breakfast.  She is a great breakfast eater and will eat quite a bit, but put eggs on her plate and she'll complain to high heavens about having some protein on her plate.  (They will eat bacon.  Yum, fatty, fried artery clogging bacon.)

Our lunch debacle is that I constantly hear (day after day) "Can I have Burger King/McDonalds/Taco Bell?" (Replace that with just about EVERY fast food place within a 50 mile vicinity from our home.)  My answer is usually no.  That doesn't stop them from begging, crying, carrying on and promising crazy things that my children would never do. (Such as cleaning their room or actually brushing their teeth without causing a big scene. Gasp!)  Sometimes I do give in to the unhealthy devil that we call fast food, but most of the time I end up making chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or PB&J for my kids.  (Sometimes that "salad" comes into play.  One leaf and a carrot; healthy.)

Dinner is even worse of a fight.  Roast beef? Ew, it's pink - according to my daughter.  Pork?  "I'm not eating a pig."  (And of course, my 3 year old who was going to eat the pork is now completely grossed out and refusing to eat porky the pig as well.)  Vegetables? Well, they pick at the green beans and peas, but only a bit.  Then they act like that's where I hid the poison.  Not today, that was in porky that you didn't eat. (ha!)  So they ask for... 

Chicken Nuggets, Macaroni and Cheese, PB&J or Pizza...

I say no.  Dinner too, that's a fight.  There are days I give up the fight and make Olivia what she wants and Alayna what she wants.  After a day of working two jobs, cooking three meals is absolute torture nothing, right?  (Meanwhile, I'm falling asleep at the stove.)  

So I was thinking, how the heck do I get my kids to eat better? Hide the veggies in brownies like I saw on TV? (That thought even made MY stomach churn!)  I did some research and came up with some good ideas.  A lot of these will mean a small fight, but I have to enforce better so my kids do not eat unhealthy and have weight struggles.

1. Refuse to make different meals for the kids.  Instead, have a little family meeting to discuss ideas that the entire family will eat.  If the kids want Mac and Cheese, agree to it and make a family serving of Mac and Cheese.  Kids will usually eat sandwiches, and maybe a creative sandwich would be the key.  Pot roast sandwiches? Steak sandwiches?  Try something fun and new for the whole family.  

2. Sneak in some healthy foods!  Do your kids like soup? Try vegetable soup with the fun noodles. Chicken Noodle soup, you can sneak some carrots into those.  Add some chopped tomatoes, ham or peas into Mac and Cheese! (made with whole grain pasta)  Spaghetti and Meatballs you can sneak some veggies into as well!  Most pasta sauces are now made with a serving of veggies too. You can even use some fun specialty noodles so your kids will want to eat it!  There are many different healthy variations of food you can make!

3. Don't offer a bribe or a reward for eating.  This is my downfall, because I do this often.  Try not to offer rewards for eating.  Your kids will always expect them. (This is very true) Rather let them learn from their own mistakes.  If you make a dinner that your kids don't want, refuse to make another.  They may complain and there might be a little meltdown, but they're hungry and they will pick on it.

4.  Make the food look fun!  For lunch, there are a lot of people who are starting to use Bento Boxes, and that is a good idea.  It may take some time and some learning to find out what will work for your child, but it will also intrigue them and make them want to eat what's on their plate. You can make the healthy food into any shape, picture or combination that you want!  This is also ideal to use for school lunches.  We are ordering some Bento Boxes today and we are going to try this!  It looks fun for both parents and children.  We also (and this does work sometimes) use cookie cutters to make sandwiches or pancakes into fun designs.  Kids are more inclined to want to help and eat what they helped make!

I will continue to do some research and come up with better ways of helping our children eat better.  Once I find that out, I will definitely share more of what is working for us and what can help other parents facing the same!  Picky eating is common among all children, and I know that it can also be "cured"! 

Let's work together! Do you have tips? Leave them in our comment section!