Few things in life compare to enjoying a meal that is lovingly prepared, regardless of how fancy or simple it is. From Crock Pot dump meals to grilling perfection, meals made by loved ones and shared as a family are life’s bread and butter. If anyone knows about preparing said meal, it’s you! Moms, Grandmas, Dads, Caretakers – I’m looking at you!
We pour our hearts, souls, and every last ounce of energy into feeding our families. I know it because we make those daunting trips to the grocery store. Then, we come home from work to spend the next thirty minutes chopping veggies for a stir-fry, when we’d rather crawl into our sweat pants and snuggle our babies. Even though we may all feed our families differently, our hearts are all in the same place. We all long to nourish the bodies of the people we hold so dear. Which is why I am always so disheartened to hear of parents acting as short order cooks to their picky children. The simplest way to squash picky eating is to stop asking your kids what they want to eat.
When we ask our kids what they want to eat or only offer them foods we KNOW they like, everyone misses out. Thirty minutes chopping vegetables – wasted. An opportunity to discover a new favorite –missed. The whole family enjoying a meal that was lovingly prepared – out the window.
I do not, have not, and will not ask my kiddo what she wants on her plate. Mamas, I really truly want you to feel empowered to stop asking your children, too. Dinnertime should be spent relaxing with our family, not slathering up PB & Js!
The Benefits of Not Asking:
Avoiding an Argument.
Asking your child want they want to eat, sparks a power struggle. It gives them a false sense of hope that they actually had a say in the first place. My daughter would be perfectly content to find her dinnerware adorned with Fruit Loops, marshmallows, and jelly sandwiches. Sugar cannot properly sustain a body, my friends! Then again, she is 3.5. She is not qualified to make informed decisions about a balanced diet. Nonetheless, if I asked what she wanted, I know exactly what she’d say. It’s pretty simple. You ask, they request pancakes. Then you say, “Here. Eat this curry.” Things go south from there.
Presenting an Opportunity.
I believe kids genuinely enjoy foods, when given the opportunity to do so. Just because your child doesn’t ask for braised lamb, doesn’t mean they won’t like it. Or love it! Children aren’t born only liking cheese pizza, but if it’s all they know, it may become all they feel comfortable with. How can kids ask for foods they haven’t even heard of? As parents, we can help encourage adventurous (and healthier) eating habits. Same goes for us adults, too. Keep trying new foods and have fun exploring an array of dishes together!
Saving Time, Energy, and Money.
Cut out the minutes you spend engaged in a power struggle. Save time not making a second meal. Don’t let the energy you put into gathering recipes and shopping for ingredients go to waste by serving an additional option. Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone, but we are a family of three. When we order pizza, we buy one kind and it is whatever my S.O. and I choose. Buying an extra pizza, a kid pizza, if you will, would add an unnecessary expense to our bill. Plus, that’d leave a surplus of food. We give our daughter whatever we are having. We don’t purchase alternatives. In most cases, this saves us money. There are a few cases, like steak night, that it might not.
How to Help Break the Habit
Okay, you’re on board! Now, what? While the habits for adventurous eating are best formed early on, there is still hope in a successful transition! If you are in the early stages of feeding your baby, I highly recommend baby-led weaning. If you are past the beginning stages, here are some simple tricks and tips.
1. Offer a choice from time-to-time.
Example: “Tommy, tonight I am fixing chicken on the grill. What’s sounds better to go with it, broccoli or green beans? Broccoli? Great choice!”
2. Set the table up family style.
This allows them some freedom to fill their plate with options you have selected. I have also done this low key on a party platter!
3. “You don’t have to eat it!”
If they show resistance or begin to whine or argue, say the 6 most liberating words ever, “You don’t have to eat it.” Kindly, but firmly let them know, that no other options will be available. (Unless, you allow them to make something for themselves.)
4. No snacking after dinner.
If your child skips dinner every night, make sure they aren’t replacing it with snacks. My daughter started not eating dinner a lot, then complaining of hunger before bed. Not wanting her to go hungry, we would often give her crackers or another snack food. She caught on that she could get things she liked better later if she didn’t eat dinner. To put a stop to this, I began saving her dinner plate. Now, when she is hungry before bed, I reheat it. The plate is usually cleaned before the end of the night. If she really tried and just doesn’t like a dish, and still won’t eat it the second time. I will fix her a vegetable she likes. I always keep a bag of frozen peas on hand for this reason. They can steam in the microwave in minutes!
5. Talk to your child about their food.
Ask what they like and why. You may see a pattern. Maybe they always seem to eat foods seasoned with garlic and skip the ones seasoned with pepper? Perhaps, they prefer crunchier veggies? If that’s the case, maybe you could help them pick out the squishy mushrooms?
Certainly, as their parent, we can be understanding and meet our kids halfway. But, for the love of all things delicious, please STOP asking them what they want to eat!
Our Sister Site offers 8 Tips for Raising Adventurous Eaters. Check them out!
Time to reclaim dinner!
Do you have picky eaters? How do you deal?
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