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Sunday, March 20, 2016

7 Tips to Create Non-Picky Eaters

Test out my 7 Tips to Create Non-Picky Eaters on your kids.  It is worth a shot.
Over time it has worked on mine!

7 tips to create non-picky eaters (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Having picky eaters at home is just the worst isn't it?  We've all been there.  You slave over a meal, set it in front of your children only to have them complain, cry and refuse to touch it, let alone take a bite.

It is such a drag.

Why won't they eat?  What will they eat?  One day they love tacos and eat three and the next day the lettuce is touching the meat all wrong and you put too much shredded cheese on top.

Somehow being a mom automatically gives us the title of chef as well and when you are feeding littles they don't care whether or not they hurt the chef's feelings.  Kids are so very honest.

So what do you do when your kids enter the stage of picky eating?  I've found the pickiest stage for my kids was between the ages of 15 months and 2.5 years.  Ahem....I have one right now stuck in the middle of that equation.

And since I have one in that stage and two that have graduated from that stage I feel that I qualify as an expert in childhood eating.  I'm sure nutritionists and child psychologists would differ, but I don't see you reading any research papers of theirs so here we are.

I have compiled my 7 Tips to Create Non-Picky Eaters for you my friends.  After meal planning {because that is the #1 question I receive}, kids-not-eating-a-lick-off-their-plate comes in at a close #2.

Do your kids eat everything you make and publish on your blog?  Well, yes and no.

Do you make them finish their meal at dinner?  Well, pretty much, YES.

Do your kids throw a fit if they don't like something you serve?  Well, yes.

Being a food blogger doesn't make me exempt from having picky eaters.  But I have learned some tips along the way to steer them in the opposite direction.  The right direction.

7 tips to create non-picky eaters (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

1.  Let Your Kids Choose 1 Meal a Week That They Want

I learned this little tip from another fellow mommy and although hesitant about it, I gave it a try.  I mean, why would I {the primary caregiver who shops and does ALL the cooking} let them decide a meal?  For all I knew they'd pick chicken nuggets or something.

But then I got to thinking about it.  What if they did pick chicken nuggets?  Would it really be THAT bad?  Would I go to foodie hell?

Giving your children some direction and responsibility when it comes to their food can steer them in the right direction.  If your kids tell you they pick chicken nuggets, you walk over to the calendar, choose the day and mark it down.  They are proud.  They picked dinner.  On Monday when they complain about the tacos, you remind them that on Wednesday we get to eat their beloved processed chicken nugget meal, but tonight we have mommy's picked meal.  We all take turns.

And don't forget to serve a healthy side with those chicken nuggets {like a salad or fresh fruit}.  If you are getting really ambitious, make your own chicken nuggets.  My version is AWESOME.  It will take you a bit more time, but you'll love 'em.

2.  Watch Cooking Shows Together

Food has kinda of a cult following nowadays.  Ten to 15 years ago I don't think we could say that. We now have food game shows, food competitions and food talk shows.  Everyone is obsessed about food {me included}.

When my kids are running around crazy after dinner at night and I want them to settle down, I turn on a cooking show.  Their favorite is the Kid's Baking Championship on the Food Network.  First off, kids are baking, so it does not look intimidating to them.  Secondly, it is fun, fast-paced and there is a winner in the end.  Kid's love trying to guess who will win.  And finally, it creates conversation.  Last week they were using white strawberries.  White strawberries?  I didn't know they existed and the kids didn't either.  They learn things, I learn things, it all balances out.

If the kids see something that looks fun or different they often ask if we can make it.  Now, one time it was SQUID and I promptly said NO.  Because I don't do squid.  But when they asked about fresh crab meat, I said sure.  Why not?  Let's have crab cakes for dinner some night.  It is all about your children learning and you going along for the ride.  The more they see, the more they are willing to try.

3.  Bake With Your Kids - Make A Dessert!

I know you all think I've lost my mojo on this one, but stay with me for a second.  Why bring in more sugar when all they are craving already is sugar?  Again, stay with me.

Baking is a process.  It requires measuring, a bit of math, patience and sometimes luck.  You simply never know what will pop out of that oven when the timer goes off.  It is all a big science experiment if you will.  Kids love this stuff.  It will be messy.  Prepare yourself for that.  My OCD self often has problems with this, but I just try to breathe through it and hang on.

During this baking time, explain what is for dinner {and maybe even have them help prep while the dessert is baking}.  Tell them that their "treat" for their hard work in helping will be a nice slice of this cake or cookie or brownie AFTER they eat their dinner with no complaints.  You need to be strict about this.  Praise them to the heavens at how well they did baking this dessert and how they are just going to LOVE dinner tonight, especially after their plate is clean and cake can be eaten.

Sometimes a little treat is okay for a reward.

4.  Plant A Garden.

Now this tip is obvious, right?  I think we all pretty much know that the more kids are involved with our foods, they better they will eat.  I'm pretty sure there is scientific proof to this one.

We have lived in our current house for almost 7 years and we have had a garden for six of those years {cut me a break, the first summer we moved here I was 8 months pregnant}.  It is nothing spectacular. Nothing that will ever grace the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.  BUT, it does grow food and that is all that matters.

My kids love helping it get started in the spring.  When the first strawberry popped up last year you would have thought it was Christmas.  When the tomatoes are over flowing and I'm up to my elbows in batches of my slow cooker basil marinara they are the first to help pick.  When my basil plant is over my head {seriously} the kids will pick it for me and we make pesto together and hang more to dry.

They LOVE having spaghetti knowing the sauce came from our back yard, or making homemade pizza and topping it with our peppers.  And pickles?  We made a ton last summer using the 4,592 cucumbers that snaked across my lawn.

And the photo for this post?  That is my middle child when she was around 2.  I just love that photo of her.

5.  Pretend That You Like ALL Foods.

Just like any other normal adult, there are a few foods that I do not like.  Water chesnuts, raw onion, oysters, salmon and honeydew melon to name a few.  I would never tell my kids that.  They think I like and enjoy everything.

Kids watch everything we do.  They are like little hawks staring at our every moves 24/7.  If they see us flinch, grimace or turn away a certain food the probability of them doing the same is very high. They follow our lead.  They want to be like us.  If it takes me eating a few bits of salmon and pretending I like in order to get them to try it, then I'll do it.

Do not keep certain foods away from them.  Serve them spicy salsa on a tortilla chip at a young age. Cook with onions and peppers and do not make a fuss about it.  Pretend that ALL foods are normal and their palate will return the favor.  Keeping foods away that you "think" they won't like, will only create more problems for you down the road.

Believe me.

I remember a friend of mine once refusing to give her 1 year old a pickle because, "there is no way he'll like it".  Well, how do you know if you don't try?

6.  Talk About Food All of the Time.

I get it.  I'm a food blogger so it kinda seems like I would talk about food all the time.  But for a normal run-of-the-mill person?  I still think you should talk about food often with your kids.  Not in the obsessive way, but more like:

"I cannot wait until we can stop at the farmer's market this summer!"

"I really want to make homemade egg rolls again, what do you think?"

"Lets make a list of possible birthday dinner foods!  I mean, I know it is a month away, but let's start a list and then we'll narrow it down, okay?"

All of this chitter-chatter is fun for kids.  I cannot imagine being in a home where bland chicken, green beans and boring potatoes are served each night and there is no talk about food.  I wouldn't do very well in a household like that.

Bring up random conversations about different foods.  Foods that you don't feed them often. Sometimes we'll play hangman and I'll pick a word like "crab rangoons".  Once the kids figure it out I'll then show them a photo of a crab rangoon on the computer and I'll explain what is in it, how it tastes, what restaurants you can get them at, etc.

It's fun!

7.  Take Them to Adult Restaurants

Again, maybe you think I'm losing my mind.  Taking a toddler to a sit down restaurant?  I know, it sounds a bit crazy, again, here me out.

We don't eat out much as a family, especially when the kids were really little, but now with a 6, 5 and almost 2 year old we go about once a week, usually on Friday nights.  It is my firm belief that you need to get kids used to a restaurant setting.  Teach them the rules from the beginning.  We tell them the same rules apply at restaurants as they do at home.

Look at the menu with them - not just the kid's menu.  In fact, if you can, have them split an adult order if you have two or more kids.  Explain to them what the items are and let them branch out.  If you only give them the options of a cheeseburger or mac and cheese then that is what they will ALWAYS pick.  Instead, tell a little white lie {seriously, don't send me hate mail about this} and give them three choices for them to pick from {this works best with kids who cannot yet read}.

Say, "Your choices tonight are: a chef salad, a grilled chicken sandwich or the lasagna"  Then, leave it at that.  They will "think" that is the kid's menu and often will not bat an eye about it.

Pick restaurants where you know you can get in and out fairly quickly and that are kid friendly.  If you made a dessert earlier in the week {like I told you too}, tell them their good behavior at dinner will result in dessert at home.  Don't expect every dinner out to go smoothly, especially the first few times, but once the kids gets used to it and they have a routine it will get better.

Thoughts?  Insight? 

I'd love to hear your rambles about my 7 Tips to Create Non-Picky Eaters.  These tips have gotten me through almost 7 years of parenting so far.  I don't have all the answers, but I'm hoping we've set up our kids to be food lovers in the future.

Good luck!

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