Mealtime with kids — love it or hate it, it just keeps happening.
My eldest was never a picky eater. Until she was. All of a sudden, she decided she would not always eat what was put in front of her. All of a sudden, we had to start negotiating.
Now, full disclosure — I am not a nutritionist. But I am a mom. A mom who has found some strategies that work. Some of these tricks came about through thought and intention. Some were just pure luck. All of them are constantly in use. Whether you’re trying to get more veggies or protein or fruits into your child, try these six tips to combat the pickiness!
1. Let them choose.
Unless it’s a school-packed meal, my eldest gets to pick what she eats. The deal is, though, that there needs to be a protein and a carb at each meal, plus a fruit at breakfast and a vegetable at lunch and dinner. The other caveat is that she cannot repeat her vegetable — if she had cucumbers for lunch, she cannot have cucumbers at dinner. Allowing her to choose her meals empowers her to make healthy food choices and gives her a sense of control.
2. Involve them.
Of course, if it’s full empowerment you’re going for, why not have your kids help plant and grow their own vegetables? They will feel so proud of their work that the V won’t be for vegetable, it will be for victory! If gardening isn’t in your future, a trip to the local farm or farmer’s market might do the trick. Even choosing the produce at the grocery store will help them feel more invested.
3. Expose them to samples.
Somehow, my kids will try any vegetable (or any food, for that matter!) if it comes in a sample-sized cup and is handed out at a store. We are good friends with one of the workers at Wegman’s now, and my daughter looks forward to seeing what new vegetable she has! What I haven’t figured out is if turning my own food at home into samples will work… I’ll let you know.
4. Taste test.
A small spin-off of samples — have your kid taste-test the veggies you have at home. The other day my daughter decided she only liked organic carrots. I only had regular carrots on hand. I had her do a blind taste test of… two regular baby carrots. When she enthusiastically decided which one was definitely the better “organic” one, I told her they were the exact same. She now loves my regular baby carrots. (Side note — this came about from trying a carrot while we were out… see “samples” above.)
5. Offer dippers.
Every veggie tastes better when dipped, whether it’s in salad dressing, guac, or hummus. Have your kids experiment with different sauces — asparagus with pesto is currently the house favorite at my place.
6. Sneak the veggies in.
When all else fails, sneak them in! Between zucchini noodles, eggplant meatballs, and cauliflower rice, there are so many ways to sneak veggies into a meal. Plus, if there’s sauce or cheese involved, it is likely to be a winner! Cauli-power alfredo and hidden veggie mac and cheese are two “sneaky” recipes in the rotation at my house, which we ALL enjoy. You can’t taste the veggies in them at all. And I use frozen veggies in both recipes to make my life that much easier. We even include another veggie in the meal, too, for good measure.
These are strategies that work for my family. Of course, now that I’ve shared them, my kids will probably revolt. But, for now, it works. Bottom line, though, the more you can make healthy eating fun and actually about choice, the more likely your kids will be to try new things and discover new favorites!
What have you found that works for your kids?