That don’t INVOLVE extra cooking!

Sharing a meal with a picky eater can take some of the joy out of family meals. 

Are your family meals based around what your kids eat rather than easy meals that all the family can enjoy together? Would you like to help your extreme picky eater move away from chicken nuggets and start to get adventurous with the foods that will feed their gut bacteria? You are not alone and I am here to help!

 

As a registered Dietitian I have spent nearly 20 years helping 1000’s of families navigate mealtimes with picky eaters!

 

Here are my proven top tips:

  1. Avoid recipes and recipe books aimed at fussy eaters! Invest your time into connecting with your child at a meal rather than spending longer grocery shopping or cooking. Enjoying a simple sandwich together is more successful than any fancy recipe that ends up in the bin. If your child enjoys food with you, they are more likely to look forward to eating with you again. Connection and enjoyment are the building blocks to enjoying a varied diet. 

  2. Make a list of all the foods you would like the whole family to eat in the future. Divide this up into Proteins, Carbs, Fats, Dairy, Fruits and Vegetables. Use this list to make a meal plan and easy dinner recipes that are relevant for your home, your budget and the time you have available for food preparation. Aim to have a food from this list on offer at each meal, add these foods to your kids lunchbox. The aim is that your child starts to get familiar with all of these foods, not necessarily that they start eating them. Familiarity is another building block to enjoying a varied diet. 

  3. Your child likely has preferred foods. Do not change anything about these. These are their safe foods. As long as these are on offer unchanged your child will feel relaxed and want to come to the table. Offer something from your list on tip 2 alongside your child’s preferred foods. In some cases you may need to offer a new food on a nearby plate, this is called a learning plate. A learning plate helps bring foods closer to the child and into their comfort zone – you can make your own fun name for this – a ‘maybe someday plate’ or whatever!

  4. Offer the foods / meals that YOU like to eat in a deconstructed manner (or buffet style). This way your child can see everything that is on offer. Serving meals in this way puts new foods close to familiar foods and that is another building block towards eating a more varied meal. Don’t ask your child to taste a new food instead read on to find ways to invoke their curiosity around new foods. 

  5. Consider what you can do outside mealtimes to invoke curiosity around food and help your picky eater. Food activity and Sticker books are a great way to help your child get curious about foods with no pressure to eat them. Here are some of my family’s favourites: 

    • It all Starts with a seed, how food grows. – This book explains how almost everything we eat grows from seeds – including flour, rice, carrots and even chocolate. Beautifully illustrated pages show root vegetables snug in the soil, plants with crunchy leaves and lots of different fruits. There is also information on how a seed sprouts, how bees help flowers and how plants grow.

    • Play Smart, My first Sticker activity book. – (2 years +) My First Sticker Activity Book is for children two years old and older who are just starting to learn. The size of the book is designed to match a child’s developmental stage, hand size, and vision. Children can apply over 200 stickers with ease. 

    • Usbourne, Look inside Food – It is important for children to understand food – where it comes from, what’s in it, and how it affects our bodies. This is an interactive introduction which traces food production from farm to fork.

    • Usbourne, Where food comes from – With over 90 flaps, the scenes in this colourful book show children where the food they eat comes from. They can discover food produced on farms, in the sea and in greenhouses, and the importance of wheat, rice and corn around the world. There’s a map with flaps showing where the things we love to eat, including chocolate, olives and tea, come from.

    • Usbourne, 1000 Things to eat – This beautifully illustrated reference book has pictures of 1000 things to eat from around the world. Children can explore topics such as ‘Breakfast’, ‘The bakery’, ‘Italian restaurant’ and ‘Street food’, and a section called ‘Festivals and celebrations’ which shows foods associated with Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Diwali and Thanksgiving.

  6. Understand that eating is a sensory experience. For a child to eat a new food we need to help them relax all 7 of their senses around these foods. They must feel comfortable seeing, touching, smelling, hearing the food crunch etc and eventually taste. It is the child’s responsibility to decide when to taste a food or put it in their mouth. We can focus on all the other aspects of eating. 

  7. Choose family recipes that interest you, involve your child in the food shop, ask them if there are any foods they want in the supermarket. Let your child pick what is for dinner sometimes – Chilli or Bolognaise – whatever is realistic for you. Involve your child in meal prep, picking out ingredients, setting the table. Scraping dirty plates for older kids is another way of interacting with foods with no pressure to eat the food. 

  8. Encourage food play. You can achieve this by playing games at meals. 

    • Play eye spy using colours, shapes and sounds, depending on where your child is developmentally. 

    • Using foods in arts and crafts – use vegetables instead of paint brushes. 

    • Play a teddy bears picnic, grind up some foods and make fairy dust to sprinkle outside – this could be an introduction to a new food smell. 

  9. Sitdown and put the TV on (but not at mealtimes!). Waffles and Mochi on Netflix is a show by Michelle Obama aimed at making food fun for young children. 

I hope you found these tips useful for more tips & tricks to your inbox please subscribe to my email list.

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