My Tips for Picky Eaters at Dinner Time
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hebrew National. The opinions and text are all mine.
When you have picky eaters, planning dinner can be stressful.
And isn’t life stressful enough without throwing that added difficulty into the mix? I remember one afternoon when the kids were little, I sat at the kitchen table for 45 minutes simply crossing things OFF the dinner list because one (or more) of my family members won’t eat that item!
There are many different ways to handle the situation, and we’ve partnered with Hebrew National to share some tips for picky eaters from our own experiences. Do you make something special for your child to ensure they’ll eat? There have been many days when I feel like a short-order cook! Making this for one and that for another…the one benefit of that is that by the time everyone has eaten, the left-overs are like a buffet for mom!
Do you stand your ground and force them to eat something they may not like? I promised I would never do this to my kids! I remember as a child sitting at a table for 3 hours because I refused to eat garbanzo beans. My mother remembers this story differently! Oh, and I kinda like garbanzo beans now…so there is hope!
I was a picky eater. My husband was a picky eater. I guess there is no surprise that our offspring would follow suit!
It is always surprising WHAT they get picky about. All these foods at one time have been on the no-eat list: bread, cheese, peanut butter, grape jelly, vegetables (except corn), apple sauce, cereal and ketchup (which he calls sauce). We aren’t even talking garbanzos!
This is why it was important to solve the picky eater dilemma and get EVERYONE to the table.
Tips for Picky Eaters
These are things that worked for us. If you could share what works at your house in the comments below, you might really help another family!
Offer limited choices. I’ve found that with my strong-willed son, simply giving him a choice eliminates the battle. If I force him to eat something straight from the pan, chances are he will refuse. But if he gets to decide what toppings or flavors go on his plate, he’s a happy camper. What grandma used to say, “They will get hungry sometime,” is true!
Keep food on-hand that they like. We keep simple things he can make himself for lunch or a snack, like Hebrew National, in the fridge and pantry. This gives him even more choice throughout the day, and allows him to eat foods he likes for breakfast and lunch. Then, if he isn’t thrilled about the recipe I’ve made for dinner, I don’t worry that he’ll go hungry. This also helps them be more independent making food choices. When you control the “choices”, you know that it is good food.
Set expectations. Before dinner, I tell my son how much I expect him to eat. If he knows going in that he needs to eat all of his entree, he can prepare himself for that. Sometimes the thought of eating an entire plate is overwhelming for him, so knowing what’s expected beforehand can really help. Offer an age-appropriate portion size to start the meal.
Maintain a meal routine. I know this seems obvious because we generally have a three-meal day, but keeping snacking and meals on a regular schedule can help keep kids hungry at the “right” time. One thing I have noticed with my older kids is they start roaming around the kitchen about an hour before dinner. If I let them snack at that time, then they hardly touch what I have made.
Get them involved in dinner process. Having kids help plan, grocery shop, and make meals can invest them in the dinner. It is a natural next step to eat! Kids find it fun to have a meal to plan or be given the choice of a side-dish or entree. My kids also love grocery shopping — it is like a treasure hunt! Making dinner is an adventure too…in fact, getting kids to participate makes it more fun for everyone.
Don’t control what they eat. I have learned to put food on the table that is good and let the rest happen organically! It takes the stress off of me and stops me from telling people to eat. It makes dinner a much happier place! I can’t make someone like something, but when good food is presented multiple times without pressure, sometimes magical things happen…like they eat it!
Our Favorite Meal for Picky Eaters
I make simple recipes for dinner, like Hebrew National offered with a toppings bar. Hebrew National are made with 100% beef and are a great alternative to the high-in-carbs meals and snacks that my kids tend to eat throughout the day.
Making this meal a “topping bar” can be fun for the whole family. Each person can customize what they want and I am always surprised how each person’s choices are so different.
Hebrew National Toppings Bar Ideas:
- Sweet Relish
- Chopped Onions
- Barbecue Sauce
Prepare the Hebrew National on the grill, in the oven or on the stove, then place in a bun.
Serve with toppings in individual containers, and allow everyone to choose what to add to their plate.
We started with a few suggestions, but have your family get involved in choosing other toppings. My son loves this meal — sometimes he’ll add pickles, sometimes he’ll go for tomatoes. But never “sauce” — we’ve just got to pick our battles, right?!
I have the hardest time with one of my kids eating ANYTHING! It is good to hear I am not alone.
What a great idea – almost too easy and good to be true! 🙂
I like to hide veggies in cookies and brownies. One of the easiest to hide is zucchini.
My solution is that I don’t make it a big deal. Getting kids in the kitchen and letting them try stuff and help sometimes is the key…sometimes it’s not! haha. We just don’t make forcing food any issue. oh, and I make blackbean brownies
smoothies!!! you can hide anything in a smoothie!!!
Homemade smoothies with all sorts of yummy fruits and yogurt. Also califlower in Homemade mac and cheese. And for dessert chocolate zucchini cake or brownies
I have a very picky eater. I give them choices for the week ahead and they participate in grocery shopping. That way they can pick things they would enjoy for school lunch and dinner at home.
My ultra picky son likes it when he gets to pick it out. As long as it is his idea he will at least try it.
We made baby food from the time ours ate solids. We never added salt or sugar. We wanted them to taste the food. They are all still great eaters and will try anything!
When my son trys something and doesn’t like it we wait a few months and try it again. Sometimes he likes it and sometimes he doesn’t. I let him know it’s great he tries something new and it’s okay to not like it.
We make green smoothies adding spinach An carrots or other veggies to fruit smoothies
Hidden Veggie Pasta is amazing!! Casseroles work great to!
I never force my daughter (she is two and a half). I just offer something to her and if she says no I try another day. However, usually if she sees me eating it she asks to take a bite and then likes it. Everything to her always seems better on my plate haha. She also associates not liking something with what it is called, so if I just let her try it without saying what it is she almost always likes it.
I have a son that is a picky eater. Twice a week I fix a dinner I know he will eat. I keep frozen items he can eat if he does not like the dinner that evening. As he gets older he tries new things. His list of dinners he will eat has grown
My daughter wouldn’t eat anything green. No lettuce, green beans, no green vegetables. And you couldn’t make her. Somewhere on her way to adulthood, she started liking salads. No tips here except to say they will outgrow some of it.
If you let them help you make the food , they will be so proud that they will want to eat it !!
I WAS LUCKY ONLY 1 OF 5 IS PICKY.ITS HIT AND MISS WITH HIM. HE HAS TO HAVE ONE BITE OF ANYTHING NEW. HEARING NEGATIVE COMMENTS FROM OTHERS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM.
My daughter is super picky, as am I so I know where she gets it, but she really needs to have more added into her diet. We have slowly added in different things but never force her and always have something else on hand that I know she will eat. I have noticed if I don’t force her or make it and make it a big deal she is more willing to try different things.
I don’t make it a big deal, if he does not want to try it I will not force it or talk him into it. I will try it again a couple weeks later. Oh and it also helps when daddy eats it he will eat it lol.
I have also hidden veggies in cookies or brownies..or cut them so small for sauces or add them to ground beef works too.
My 10 year old has always been a picky eater. What i do is make him a plate with small to bite size portions and make him eat those before getting what he wants. I tell him he has to at least try… I however have not had issues with him just sitting there and not eating! Kids are so stubburn!!!!
I started off with a color theme for lunch. The kids got to know their colors and names of food. Like orange usually met we would have mac and cheese,oranges and carrots! They did awesome but then as they got older it went into how can I cook this food, what would go good with it, etc so now just being involved helps them be less picky.
Hiding new veggies in smoothies and normal favorite foods are good way to introduce them to it. Another way is try making decorated foods with new food they normally wouldn’t try alone, like adding celery with peanut butter and top it off with some raisins or grapes.
I blend veggies and put them in things like meatloaf, stuffing, etc. And this is for my husband! Hahaha! If he doesn’t see the “crunchies,” he thinks they aren’t there!
I just have her try the new foods and then I will fix something different. But she has to try the new food.
I have an extremely picky 3yr. Old. He prefers to only eat fruit. I did find out recently if he helps mommy or daddy make dinner he will eat what he put together or at least try it.. Haha. He also loves to serve himself. It’s definitely a challenge.
start from when they are infants. NEVER say you don’t like something…never act like veggies are nasty and something that you have to force down. Being picky is taught from an early age. Nature vs. Nurture. Being picky is a nurture thing. You’re not born thinking things are gross. Parents make different meals for their kids (fries and chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and PB&J) because they won’t feed them the “adult meal”. Of course your kiddo will hold out for the crap food if you end up caving and making it for them.
When my girls were little they would not eat vegetables for anything. They did however love eating spaghetti so I would grind the vegetables up and putting them into the sauce. They never knew. I would also bake the ground vegetables into cakes and cookies that they loved to eat.
I always made it a rule that they have to take one bite. I always limited their sweets and if they tried new foods and ate one bite they would get a small cookie or a mini candy. This worked well for my kids, Now grown they will eat almost anything.
When he helps cook, we have more success than is we talk about it!
Just make it fun! That is what I do with my Grandkids, they love to help make the food and when they do they eat a wider varity of food. Rememmber FUN !!!
My daughter will not eat anything green except broccoli cheese soup/
I hide veggies in other foods they like, such as meatloaf, hamburgers, spaghetti sauce, etc.
My daughter has always been a super picky eater. Now that she’s getting older (she’s 7), we can tell her tastes are changing and that she is willing to try new things. We don’t push it, if she doesn’t like it, but we insist she try something new almost everyday. When she was younger, I would make sure to have plenty of fruits and vegetables that she did like to get some servings in. Veggie pasta is great, but she didn’t like pasta sauce either. Mac and cheese was out and so were many other normal “kid” foods. She didn’t like milk either, so it was ice cream and other dairy product to replace milk.
I have a daughter who was so picky that it felt like I was preparing two separate meals for our family. (My husband is also picky and contributed to the problem – they didn’t like the same things!) Before she was old enough to help prepare, she could contribute to the meal planning by choosing things from the pantry for me to prepare. When she was old enough to cook, she would help by cooking one item for the meal that she would eat or at least try. She is grown and married now, and has become an adventurous eater.
Try making shapes out of the food. Like sandwiches. Cut crust off bread. Make vegetable into breads.
I find that if my son helps me cook it he will try and he is a really picky eater.
I have three picky eaters and dinner time is when i am challenged most. Thanks for some very great tips
My picky eater is big enough to make some things she likes on her on, but I still make her try a bite of what has been made for dinner. She has started to branch out more on her food likes.