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Strategies For Picky Families

by Heather

Is picky eating a struggle in your house? Let’s chat about strategies for picky families so that you can go from stressed around meals, so cool as a cucumber. Make mealtimes relaxing and FUN again!

strategies for picky families

Strategies for picky families

Today we are talking about a topic I chat with a lot of my mama friends about: picky families, picky kids… even picky husbands. I’ll be sharing helpful strategies and ideas if you’re in that boat and feeling frustration around mealtimes.

It can feel so frustrating…

Pickiness or people just refusing your food is frustrating. I have made many meals that at least one of my 4 kids has not been very excited about. Or my husband. I can definitely think of a few that he did not like (they weren’ very good so I’ll give him that).

When you put effort into a meal and then someone just turns their nose up at it – that is frustrating! But here is a huge tip to help you win in that situation.

Take the emotion out of it.

It doesn’t benefit anyone if we are yelling at the person to “try this food!” We’re going to get stressed out. They are going to feel that tension and it’s ultimately not going to make for a positive space for a family meal.

Preferences do not equal picky families

One thing to remember is that everyone has their own preferences. I know my husband does not like sweet potatoes, even as much as I love sweet potatoes. I would love to have them every day, but I don’t… because I’m a nice wife.

I’m not going to force it on him. I’ve tried many times in the past to sneak it in, but he always finds it. So I try and honor everyones preferences. There are foods I don’t prefer and I would be annoyed if I was constantly being offered those foods.

Exposure is still important

Do remember, it’s good to expose your children and your family to different foods. Just acknowledge that everyone has a difference taste profile that they love.

Let’s chat strategies for picky families

We’re not going to get emotional. We’re not going to get stressed. We are going to allow our family members to have their own taste preferences.

Here’s a strategy that you can use if mealtime is so frustrating that you just want to throw in the towel every night and buy a frozen pizza. This takes a little thinking on your part.

Figure out a base meal

What is a base meal that everyone in your family can get behind? Maybe it’s tacos?? Or taco meat? You know that everyone loves the taco meat, for example. Let’s build a meal around that.

The taco meat is in the center, and then we add options around it. Maybe we add rice, or tortillas, or beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cilantro… think of all those different components that you can include. Then we let everyone pick what they want to add onto their plate.

This is opposite of say a casserole, where it has everything mixed together. Keep all the foods compartmentalized so everyone can pick what they want.

What about balance?

You might be feeling like you really want everyone to get a good balanced meal. However, I want you to ask this: is it worth it if you’re stressed and your family members are not really eating it? Let’s try and bring a little more joy into dinnertime by reducing everyone’s stress.

Another example…

We chatted about tacos, but let’s talk about different examples. Maybe your family likes pesto chicken or pesto salmon. They like pesto on a protein. How can you build a meal around that protein and give options for them to choose?

Maybe you add a side of roasted potatoes, or roasted broccoli, or a salad. It’s really easy to add a raw vegetables on the side. Offer that variety. They will see it and be exposed to it. When they are in a less stressed or pressure filled space, maybe they’ll try it.

Modeling matters

Modeling is super important for kids. Modeling the way we want kids to be around food matters. My kids are much more likely to want to take food off of my plate.

If I’m trying a new food or I make a smoothie and I want to have it all to myself, you better believe they always want it. If we want to expose our children to foods we need to also be the example of enjoying them ourselves.

Include a food they do like at meals

A strategy I often use for dinnertime with us is to serve fruit with dinner. My kids are young and fruit is always a win around here.

I have a daughter that just doesn’t like potatoes. In all forms. She doesn’t like french fries, mashes potatoes or roasted potatoes. Sometimes she’ll eat tater tots, but we also don’t have those very often.

We still eat potatoes at dinner though. Since I know she’ll just try a bite and not eat a lot, I offer fruit there so that she can feel like she’s getting a win at the dinner table.

It’s really nice to give your kids a win at dinner time, so always include at least one component at the dinner table they they are familiar with. That way not every food presented is new. They can feel comfortable because there is something on the table that they have seen, liked and tried.

Add variety in slowly

My last and final tip is to increase variety very slowly. Let’s look at a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for example. Maybe you want to swap the jam or nut butter. And they notice.

A strategy is to slowly decrease the amount of peanut butter and increase the amount of almond butter, for example. Over time, the ratio changes with more almond butter, and less peanut butter. This allows their taste buds to very slowly change and adjust.

If you love the idea of adding more variety slowly, I’ve got more on that topic coming very soon!

Looking for more resources to help with meal planning and feeding your family? Check out these posts:

Prefer to watch + listen? Head to YouTube to watch the strategies for picky families the video.

How are mealtimes in your house? Do you have picky eating that you’re working through?

I’d love to know! Leave a comment below! Any more questions? I’m here to answer them!



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Alexandra September 12, 2020 - 1:26 pm

Very useful tips. I usually read articles that stop at “make mealtime happy” or “expose your child”, but never actually give more examples of how to do that. I liked all of your tips and haven’t come across some of them which made me happy! I like the concept that our job is to put food on their plates and their job is to decide what and how much they eat. And I have gained the power to not take it personally if my children don’t like what I’ve cooked. What I don’t know how to handle is for example when I make a plate like eggs, tomatoes, cucumber and toast and I know my kid likes all of those, but eats the bread first, then can’t eat the rest, or he keeps asking for bread which I know would fill his stomach. The problem is that I don’t how to handle that so that I don’t add stress. I feel like saying: you’ve had your toast, now there is more on your plate that you can eat… but that just adds an element of tension… And I really just want to sit back and enjoy our meal all together in a nice atmosphere… I hate being naggy and it sometimes feels like my older kid (5yo) just wants to trigger that. And I keep smiling and he keeps asking for things in a grumpy voice. I just want a relaxed meal time.. 😀

Heather September 13, 2020 - 9:29 am

I’m so glad it was helpful! And Alexandra, that struggle happens in our house too! It’s harder with my 2 year old, but my 4, 6 and 8 year old know that I often say this: “We don’t waste food. If we want something else, let’s first work on what is on our plate so that we aren’t throwing food away, then we can have more”. I also turn it into a conversation around lots of people not having food and it’s a blessing that we do. It’s a constant conversation, but I hope that helps with your 5 year old!

Alexandra September 13, 2020 - 1:51 pm

Thank you very much. You are absolutely right and I also do not like wasting food. I will talk about that more often with my kid, he is very understanding in of importnat things. And you are actually reminding me that I am doing the right thing, but that doesn’t mean the work it’s over. We are working on our kids behaviours and shaping their souls every single day and these are just opportunities for us to do so.

Heather September 13, 2020 - 2:30 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! Every day is an opportunity to learn (for them and us 🙂 )


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