Thoughts from the Mom: 5 Strategies to Get Your Picky Eaters on Board with Variety in Meals

Posted by the Mom (aka Kelly Biedny)

Eating different things, or even the same thing, but prepared different ways. This is something that I, as an adult, enjoy. This is also something that my children, for some reason, do not enjoy. I know that I could just make the foods I want, the way I want and if the kids won’t eat them, too bad. But, I’m not that sort of mom. I want them to ‘want’ to at least ‘try’ the food; I worry that they’re not eating…I know they’ll just sneak junk food when I’m occupied doing other things. I realize that they will not starve to death and that I could just eliminate all junk food from the house to stop them from sneaking it. I also know that I can’t make them want to do anything. The thing is, I just don’t understand it. I’ve always liked food of all kinds, even as a child. My parents never had to provide extra encouragement or bribe me in any way to get me to taste anything (except oysters, eewww).

So, where does that leave me as a peace-loving parent longing for variety? Well, there are a few things I’ve tried–sometimes with success, sometimes not. These strategies have at least allowed me to address my desire for variety in my meals while still ensuring my kiddies get a healthy dinner.

They are:

1) Discuss potential new recipes or foods with the kids before making them.
Whenever I find a recipe I’d like to try, one that I’m pretty sure either Alex or Soph, or if I’m lucky, both of them will like, I show it to them. Sometimes they ignore me. Sometimes they make faces at me. Sometimes they say, ‘Hmmm, that might be good.’ Either way, once I’ve brought it up, I continue to mention it, even showing them pictures if they’re available. What this mainly does is prevent surprises. When the meal shows up on the table, they expect it and are usually pretty willing to taste it, even if they made faces at the original proposal.

2) Have them help prepare these new foods or recipes
This is a commonly mentioned strategy used to get kids to eat things they might not otherwise like. It does not always work–sometimes Alex and Soph help cook something and then proudly announce that they made it for me and would rather not try it. However, when combined with strategy #1, success rates for at least getting them to try the food are drastically improved.

3) Make trying new things a standard part of your monthly or weekly meals.
Like building exercise into your daily routine, trying new recipes and foods can become a standard part of the family meal experience. But, routines require consistency to become routines, so if you start having ‘New Food Friday’ at your house, it’s best to stick with it, or commit to a schedule so everyone knows when the new stuff will be making an appearance. The kiddies might actually start looking forward to it 😀

4) When preparing a new food or recipe, make side dishes you know that they’ll eat…maybe even make an extra or two.
If you’re a worrier like me, you’ll want to ensure that there will be something the kids will eat, even if they refuse to eat the main dish or new food item. The best way to do this is to include some tried and true side dishes. Although Alex and Soph have a long way to go before they’ll starve to death, as their Mom I just feel irresponsible if I don’t get something nutritious in them at meal time and I always know that they’ll at least eat the corn and biscuits if they don’t like the new chicken recipe 😀

5) Try new recipes when there are a few left-overs in the fridge–particularly recipes the minis like.
If the new recipe you’re trying is really sort of a one-pot thing, or, if you don’t have time to ensure that the side dishes are to the liking of the minis, just plan the new recipe night to coincide with a day you know there will be plenty of left-overs in the fridge. This is a big one for me because usually, even if one of my children likes the new dish, the other does not. And, the one that does not somehow, more than likely also does not prefer any additional side dishes I may have prepared. And, since my children both have basic cooking skills, when they complain about the food, they are pointed to the fridge and told what they can reheat and eat. I might be a push-over, peace-loving mother, but when I’m eating, I’m eating…if they don’t like the food that I make, they can reheat previously made food on their own (yeah, I’m super tough, I know).

So there you have it. Five strategies to help you meet your adult, variety loving food needs, while still providing for the nutrition of your taste-averse children. I think though, that by continually encouraging my kids while still providing alternatives that someday, their taste horizons will expand…

Happy family cooking everyone!

Alex, Sophia and Kelly

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