5:00pm – I finish up work and often it is just me and the little ones.
5:30pm – Time to start putting dinner on the table. I have always believed in eating dinner together as a family, around the table with no distractions. I do believe it is one of the most important things you can do for your kids.
6:00pm – Most of us are finishing up and starting to clean up.
6:30pm – Everything is cleaned up and we would be ready to continue….except there is one member of our family still sitting at the table who has barely touched her food yet. My daughter, Aria, is sitting at the kitchen table eating ant size pieces, talking, and looking around.
6:40 pm – I sit back down with Aria to encourage her to eat her food.
6:45pm – I have lost my patience and now yelling at Aria to finish her dinner.
6:50 pm – She has eaten 1/8 of her dinner and crying about not getting dessert.
7:00pm – She has eaten the minimally acceptable amount and puts her dishes away. I never force her to clean her plate. I believe that can lead to weight issues that many women in my family struggle with. She tries to shove a whole brownie down in 2 minutes for dessert before I even had a chance to say anything.
8:00 pm – She is in the fridge, trying to figure out what she can get away with eating.
Unfortunately this is the what happens in my house 50% of the time. I wish I was writing a blog about the magic solution to get those picky eaters to eat but I am still looking for it. We have tried many different methods. I thought she would grow out of it eventually like my older daughter, Avani, did.
When Avani was 2 she started to get picky about what she ate. Eventually, we purchased some Nestle Dibs to use as a reward. The rule was simple. Eat 5 bites of your dinner, get a dib. She loved chocolate so she ate it. It was simple and it worked. To this day, she’ll try just about anything that isn’t spicy and likes 90% of what she tries.
Aria started getting picky right around the same time, age 2. Of course we tried the EXACT same thing. While Aria loved chocolate even more than Avani, she would forgo the Dibs and still not eat. Our house rule has always been that you could only eat what was served on the table. I figured it was a phase, she was healthy, she made up with a big breakfast, and she seemed fine.
2 years went by and right before her 4th birthday, I told her that we would be implementing a new rule. She no longer could just bypass dessert, she HAD to try 3 bites of something new before she could get up from the dinner table. And so the extremely long dinner routine started. By far, this has been the most effective rule to date however she is about to turn 7 in a few weeks and it is still a daily struggle after 5 years.
Here are the different methods we have tried and what our results have been.
- No dessert without eating your dinner – this got us nowhere fast with our stubborn one. She was happy to not eat dessert and also not eat dinner.
- Proportioned dessert if you try 3 bites of something new – This has by far been the most successful but still a struggle. It makes her at least try the food, knowing that she doesn’t have to eat much of it. We end up at the table for over an hour. She has found several foods that she likes that she had absolutely refused to try previously. We eat a variety of ethnicities at our house so she has found she like Falafel, Thai Curry, Baby Corn and Turkey Meatballs to name a few (all available at Trader Joe’s).
- Adding a time limit – At this point, we have been sitting at the table for over an hour for several years. I decided that we needed to implement a time limit so that she had to try what’s on the table (plus a decent amount of food in general) in less than 35 minutes. This really hasn’t achieved anything more than a whole lot of tears.
- Hiding vegetables in meals – There were several ones that looked promising here. Zucchini muffins were a hit but for entrees, she would pick apart the meal and even scrap off all the sauce of the lasagna until it was plain.
- Offer plain oatmeal in lieu of any meal – This is one my sister in law suggested to me recently and we are now starting to try out. Using this tactic, we don’t force her to eat anything she doesn’t want to. The idea being that she will eventually get sick of Oatmeal and decide to start eating other things.
- Get kids involved in the process – Aria actually really enjoys helping out in the kitchen. I have been able to get her to take a few bites of a food that she put her own hard work into by having her participate from step one. Even something GREEN!!!
Now the worst part is that she also has enlarged tonsils so if she really doesn’t like it (broccoli fits into this category) she will start gagging and even start vomiting. Needless to say, I don’t make her try the broccoli.
If you are dealing with a picky eater like I am, my heart goes out to you! Have you found that magic solution? Please share what has worked and hasn’t worked for your kids.