How To Handle Picky Eaters

Typical conversation before dinner starts at my house:

“What is this?”

“It’s chicken. Chicken nuggets.”

“But these aren’t the kind we normally have.”
“I know, but that brand was out when I went to the store last time. Tonight, we’re having these.”
“But I don’t like these.”
“But you’ve never had these.”

“They look weird.”
“They’re chicken nuggets. They’re all the same.”
“They smell different.”
“They’re the same thing.”

“I’m not hungry. I’m not eating.”
“For real? You’re not even going to try them?”

The good news is, that I did get my kids to move past the generic, McDonald’s-esque nuggets that they were used to to try a different honey glazed nugget with what appeared to be better meat. We started using that brand for a couple of years when, to my surprise, my husband says one night, “I’ll just have a bowl of cereal.” Seriously, this has got to be the biggest insult non-insult out there. Doesn’t matter if I’ve slaved over a meal all afternoon or if I’ve popped nuggets in the oven, I’ve never liked that. Malt-o-Meal and General Mills…stop being so easy and tasty and creating conflict in my marriage!

Come to find out my hubby didn’t like that brand of nuggets. For years without saying anything. He didn’t like the original brand either. He liked a specific kind. With honey mustard sauce. Oy.

My name is Alecia and I have a family of picky eaters.

I’m sorry, but when your kids and your husband won’t even eat the nuggets because they “look” a little different than the usual brand…you’ve got a problem.

My husband was recently told by his doctor that he needed to add more fiber to his diet. So I made him a veggie medley with broccoli and cauliflower. We even sprinkled shredded cheese on it. Yum. Nope. He couldn’t do it. He wanted corn. Corn. To add fiber to his diet. I tried to explain to him that corn usually ends up coming out the other end fully intact and therefore doesn’t really have any nutritional value. I tried to explain to him that corn is in fact more of a starch than anything else. He would rather take fiber tablets. Than eat broccoli. Or beans. Or carrots. Or whatever else. Just corn please.

One of my worst nightmares is having a family that can’t just sit down to a meal together and eat what is presented. And this household definitely feels like it is headed in that direction some days. I’ve been really down lately about this too because even the one child who hasn’t ever been typically picky has been incredibly choosy about what she will and won’t eat lately. It’s so frustrating. For me. And I have to realize that this isn’t about me. It’s about them.

Obviously the hubby is contributing to the problem. But he refuses to admit it. I will feel like I’ve accomplished my life’s goal if I can get my hubby to admit that he is a picky eater and agree to do something about it. So I have had to make changes and get my kids to partake of nutritionally valuable things on my own. Lo and behold if I haven’t had at least a couple them here and there come over to my side. Here are a few of the “tricks” that I have employed:

*Add veggies/fruit purees to sauces and casseroles.  You can take fresh foods and blend them up to do this or you can take a jar of baby food. Either way, they can’t sense it at all.  Seriously. There are a whole slew of cookbooks that are devoted to this type of cooking and these ladies aren’t messing around. One of my favorites is Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious. It really does work.

* Create smoothies. I make smoothies all the time now. It’s such a great way to get tons of fruits and veggies in without actually having to chew my way through all of those fruits and veggies. I utilize a lot of different items for these that the kids never know are hidden in the smoothie: frozen fruits (various berries and passion fruits), flax seed, cucumbers, spinach, kale. Okay…the kids figured out something was up the first time I put kale in a smoothie and it came out green. But when one of them was willing to try it and said how good it was a couple others caved as well. I still have two hold outs but I’m hoping they’ll eventually come around.

*Offer healthy options that will work for your kids. I’m pretty sure when I die one of the things that my children will remember (fondly) about me is that I was always saying, “Have a banana!” Every time they wanted a snack too close to dinner. Every time they were hungry when I felt they shouldn’t be. Every time they didn’t eat everything offered on their plate because they “didn’t like it” and were still hungry 10 minutes after dinner was over. Have a banana. I always have healthy options available to let my kids have any time they are feeling hungry that allow me to feel good about the fact that they are at least getting nutrition. Always keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and grains on hand that you can feel good about your kids snacking on. I heard somewhere once that when our kids our filling up on things like bananas and carrot sticks and then don’t have room for dinner (that they possibly wouldn’t eat anyway) our attitude should be, “oh well.” At least they filled up on something healthy.

*Give ample opportunity to try new things. One of the things that I enjoy doing, and that the kids enjoy doing as well (I think) is having a good old fashioned taste testing party. Because they are so picky this is one of those things that I can do to put new foods on the table for them to taste and see if they really do like them or not. On Will and Grace, Jack once said, “Just because you add good and old fashioned to something doesn’t make it a party.” I beg to differ. It actually sparks the kids interest and gets them mildly prepared to try something new. We’ve tried exotic (well, as exotic as you can find here in Wisconsin) fruits and different types of breads and baked dishes. It’s been a lot of fun. Another way to get them to try new things is to just make everything available at the table during meals and just encourage them to give something a try. One time. One bite. One meal at a time.

*Make a multitude of dips available. My pickiest eater has been able to tolerate things better simply by dunking them in ketchup.  Sometimes there appears to be more ketchup then actual food. But, who am I to argue? At least he’s eating it. At one point one of my kids discovered that they actually did like carrot sticks when they dipped them in peanut butter. Okay. Not my cup of tea. But peanut butter is a good dip for a lot of different foods. Whatever works. That’s my new motto. Ranch, hummus (which we just recently discovered), ketchup, caramel, peanut butter.

Now I need your help. While these ideas have worked here and there for me and my picky eaters…I need some more ideas! What have you done for your picky eaters that has worked?

I link up with some of these fantastic sites!


14 thoughts on “How To Handle Picky Eaters

  1. Thanks for stopping by! I grew up with a sibling who was a picky eater. She still is somewhat. Which is what worries me…If they’re picky now, there’s a good chance they’ll always be picky!

  2. I have a family of picky eaters too and when my boys were younger, I think the routine was pretty much like you described here at my household. Oh, the joys! But I have to admit, as they’ve matured, so has their pallet. They’ve all (my husband as well) tried some things they would’ve turned their noses up at years ago. So I say, keep up the good work and there’s hope for better days ahead, sweet friend! Thanks for the humorous look at the picky-eaters-household. I enjoyed it immensely! Oh, and thanks for linking up at Wedded Wed too. 🙂

    • Beth – I sure hope you’re right and choose to remain positive and just keep trying all of these things and trust it will all turn out 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. LOL, great read although I know its frustrating. I grew up with a picky brother and now have 2 nephews who tend to be quite picky. (Apparently broccoli is so disgusting it makes them puke…boys). My sister-in-law tends to do ‘on pot’ meals throwing chicken, potatoes and some peas/corn/carrots all in ones and bakes it in a dressing. Its seems to work for some reason. And don’t worry, my mom ALWAYS said “have a banana” and I do..everyday! Good luck!

    • Thanks!One pot meals don’t work for us because they just pick it apart to just eat what they think they like but I like the idea. I personally love throwing meat, sauce and veggies together. One of my favorites is still tatortot casserole but no one in my house can handle it.

  4. I am thankful that my youngest enjoys eating veggies. My older kids do some but they also aren’t found of trying new things.

    • “new” is hard. But offering it as an option, and modeling how yummy it is will hopefully make a dent eventually! Maybe your youngest will pave the way for the others 🙂

  5. I am blessed with a family of non-picky eaters but that can present some problems, too. Like they will eat ANYTHING, good for them or not! These are great tips, though!! Thanks so much for linking up with me at Walking Redeemed last week!

  6. This article sums up a lot of my feelings about picky eating, which I must admit that I am guilty of. My son has a slew of food allergies which eliminate a huge portion of healthy options and he is very,very picky. I am forever looking for any new ideas in order to provide him with healthy and safe foods to eat ! ahh !

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