How to Plan Meals For a Picky Eater
February 12th, 2013 posted by Kathleen Peters
This is such a tough one – how do you please everyone in the family? After struggling with a few ‘selective eaters’, as I prefer to call them in my house, and then reading, Coping with a Picky Eater by William G. Wilkoff, my conclusion is that you can’t-and you can! Sound confusing? Well, never fear, help is on the way! The key I have found is to not become a short-order cook. This is where many Picky Eater Moms (moms of selective eaters) find themselves. It’s such a struggle. We want our kids to get nutritious food and yet we don’t want them to go to bed hungry. So, what do we do? We make Tommy his hot dog with no bun, Henry his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Suzi a pancake with powdered sugar on top. What I’ve found is that, sure everyone goes to bed with their stomachs full, but I’m so tired, I don’t have the energy to make myself something to eat. I go to bed hungry, and I’m not even a picky eater! How do you make sure your kitchen only has one thing on the menu for the night? Here’s the plan I use: Each week, I plan to cook at least one favorite dinner for each child in my family. One son loves pizza, the other loves steak, and so I make those meals on two separate nights. Then, on the days I am serving a not-so-popular choice, I make sure there is vegetables served that they like, or rolls…something I know they like and could fill up on. I make sure these liked food items are not any extra effort on my part to make; it’s just a part of the meal. Yes, my kids have had dinners of just broccoli because they didn’t like the main dish! And they really didn’t starve. I promise! When we first started this, there was some grumbling, but we just explained that there might be meals that may not be enjoyed by all. That’s ok. And if the kids chose not to eat, we explained, “We’ll make sure you have a really good breakfast in the morning.” Now, there’s very little grumbling, and they always know there will be something, even if it’s a side dish, they like at the meal. Based on Dr. Wilkoff’s advice, we also make sure that each of our sons receives a generous portion of the item he enjoys most, and small portions of the rest. Each boy is able to have seconds of the liked item, as soon as he finishes the other not-so-favorite items. This, believe it or not, has pushed our kids to try the things they thought they didn’t like just to get more of what they do like. How wonderful when they realize that they do like it! My kids have added more foods to their favorites list by doing this one thing alone. Yahoo! Mealtime is now a relaxing and joyful event, rather than a necessary evil I would pray would end quickly. We give our kids the choices, and everyone just enjoys the time we have together. It’s so wonderful. One way to help your ‘selective eater’ adjust to this dinnertime change is to ask him to choose a meal he would like to eat the next week. Then, on your calendar, post it on the day they would like to eat it. This gives them a visual and something to look forward to. “Yeah! It’s Tuesday, we’re having Tacos!” It also gives them a sense of control. They get to choose what everyone else in the family has to eat. One other thing, our rule at the table is that you don’t get to comment about the food. The kids are not allowed to say, “EWWW…rice, I hate rice!” If they want to complement the chef, that’s great. Or if they try something new, they can say they didn’t like it, but all else is to be kept to themselves.