When I was a kid I was well known as being one of the most picky eaters on Earth. I adored candy, and still have quite a sweet tooth (see my tip for Halloween at the bottom of this post). As a kid I would eat an entire block of Kraft cheddar cheese after school. I don’t think it really qualifies as cheese, maybe cheese “product”. Fruit, I would eat with abandon. Veggies were okay. I had a deep distrust of anything animal and loathed milk.
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I HATED onions with a passion most people save for terrorists and Charles Manson. When I was 9 my onion loving dad told me I would someday grow up and like onions. I refused to believe it, and wrote him a note which I dated and signed that said simply, “I will NEVER, EVER eat an onion.”(I do eat onions now, so 9 year old me was wrong)
My kids are the payback for the grief I caused my parents. I have 4 kids that are various levels of picky. Finding meals that incorporate 1 thing that everyone can eat, some veggies, and whole grains can be a tremendous challenge.
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Here are 12 ways we feed our picky eaters without breaking the bank.
- Compromise: The kids want white bread, but you want them to eat whole grain. Try products that meet both your needs like this whole grain white bread from Wegman’s.
- Pick your battles: Choose the best foods and keep finding new ways to offer them.
- Find balance where you can: For instance, you may think your child needs more greens, so start by offering green fruits, and bland veggies like green beans that can be coated with butter, dressing, or ketchup.
- Try new things: Don’t be afraid to offer new things, or try different recipes. Just make sure you have 1 thing on the table your child will eat.
- Offer less options: Fabulously Broke shared that her mom had an eat it or starve policy. While that may be too extreme for some parents, we should not be expected to be short order cooks serving different meals to each member of the family.
- Keep trying: Research has shown that a child needs to be introduced to a new food 5-10 times before they accept it. Don’t give up just because your child says they “hate” something.
- Make it fun: The he half of Vilkri shared that his family makes pasta and then everyone “customize(s) their toppings.” Other ideas, use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches, have a tea party, have a food from every color of the rainbow, or choose foods that start with the first initial in everyone’s name.
- Offer treats: Treats should not be tied to finishing your meal, or cleaning your plate. Offer a fixed number of treats per week or day and let your child choose when to have them. (via my friend Liz)
- Have a backup food: Dina Rose shares a great tip, have a backup food. One your child LIKES, but doesn’t love. That way if they refuse their meal you have an alternative.
- Don’t make food=reward: Research has shown this can have a negative impact on the reward, and the enjoyment of the food.
- Enlist your child’s help: Have you cooked with your kids? Even wee ones love to help dump things into batter, or take a turn stirring. Older kids can even prepare full meals. IF you have a young child I HIGHLY recommend getting a Learning Tower. It has enough room for more than one child, and is a safe way for them to help. For older kids choose kid’s cookbooks. A few of our favorites can be found in my Amazon shop.
- Keep junk out of the house: This tip isn’t just for the kids, it’s for adults like me who can’t help themselves. I’d rather spend more money to go out to an ice cream shop, than to have it sitting in the freezer calling my name, or having the kids beg for it every 5 minutes.
With Halloween only days away, I have no candy in the house. We’ll pick it up the day before Halloween. We also offer the kids a bigger treat, or small toy in exchange for some of their candy. That way they get full enjoyment of a handful of pieces, and the rest we can give away. This keeps both us, and the kids healthier.
What tips do you have? Tricks? Ideas? Share them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.