Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Raising Grateful, Willing, and Non-Picky Eaters

I am NOT proclaiming to have perfectly grateful and willing eaters!
This is our process...

Sometimes kids think we moms are poisoning them when we've cooked a nice, well balanced meal.
 "Ew, gross!"
"I don't like it!"
 Are all common phrases we hear, along with noses turned up and sometimes accompanying gagging noises.

This was discouraging for me. I felt like not even cooking when all my efforts seemed so unappreciated. I asked myself often, Why am I even trying?

 Thankfully though, through the years, with a few little tricks and strategies, our family enjoys dinner time, and my kids are much more open to eating what I cook. Here are a few things we've done that have significantly helped the little ones' eating habits, and my sanity.

1. Make dinner time relaxing and fun
 Some families apparently sit around the table and just naturally have a good ol' time every night. My family needs a bit of help. Check out these posts for some help in the family fun and bonding arena:
Themed Meals for Fun Family Time

15 Ways to Create Fun and Relaxed Family Meal Times

{Fun} Manners Boot Camp

2. Serve a variety of food
I LOVE to try new recipes. For a long time this did not go over well with my kids.  Now though, it's become sort of a game. They now act as the taste testers and rate the recipes I make. They are much more willing to try because they feel like their opinion matters (which it does to a certain extent :).

My grandma was an excellent cook, and she always told me that a well balanced meal needed as many colors as possible. So, I try to serve colors. When my kids remember to eat as may colors as they can, it makes them more willing to venture a bite into new foods because they're trying to reach that color goal. Again, turning this into a game is very helpful!

3. Don't expect that they'll like everything at first
There are all kinds of statistics that show how many times a baby has to have certain foods placed in front of her before she will venture to eat them. Reluctant eating  does not often wear off immediately after they've grown a bit. Sometimes we have to serve foods again and again before they will like or even tolerate them. Which is especially true for vegetables- and in my opinion, that's the most important thing they need to learn to eat.

Sometimes veggies need ranch to make them more palatable, or even a creative way of serving them. Keep serving that food- eventually they'll eat it. Some foods, they'll never like... just like I still don't like brussel sprouts. That's OK... kids have to know that it's OK not to like everything, but they do have to try.

4. Everyone has to try at least 2 bites of everything
Or Else... NO Dessert!
I can't count how many times my kids have majorly hesitated to try something, and then once they tried it, they liked it. Then ate it all AND asked for seconds. I'm constantly reminding my kiddos of that fact, and bringing to memory how often it happens.

Sometimes my kids are so stubborn because what I've made for dinner looks completely unappetizing to them. I almost have to pry those little mouths open. At those times, I remind them that those who are not willing to try 2 bites, do not get dessert -which most often is something very small (- like a few pieces of candy or an Oreo). Still though, dessert is motivating!

The reason our rule is 2 bites is just a personal opinion. I don't think anyone can usually tell if something is totally unlikable in just 1 bite. I also don't think they should have to finish their whole plate. There are foods we just plain don't like. That's ok, but we have a strict MANNERS rule that we don't say anything rude about someone's cooking. Our rule is to say, "I don't care for this." It makes my kids laugh to say it that way, but I like the way it sounds so much better.

5. Dinner is only cooked ONCE
That's it! In our house, if you don't eat dinner, then mom or dad  WILL NOT cook something especially for you.

That may sound harsh, but that's life. I tell them that there will be many times in their lives when they have to eat something they don't especially like. I know, I am a mean mom, but I do let them have any fruit or vegetable in the house, even if they didn't eat dinner, but that's it.

This is one of the biggest keys to raising a non-picky eater.

6. Expect the kids help cook and clean 
I will straight out admit that it is HARD for me to have kids help me cook :(! I have to bite my tongue often to keep from losing my patience. However, I know that teaching kids to cook is so important. They are MUCH more willing to eat a food creation that they've made themselves, and also more willing to try the food others make when they understand that work goes into making a meal.  Jan gave some GREAT suggestions HERE for cooking with kids.

7. Be Consistent
When kids have a routine, and they know what is expected, they follow suit the vast majority of the time.

These things have been useful for a more enjoyable dinner time for us. I would LOVE any more ideas!
XO, Nancy Pin It


  1. Nancy, I don't even remember how I came across this blog but I love it! You are amazing and even though I may not make a comment, I have gained great insights and giggles from your entertaining and creative ideas (0; Linda Dickinson

    1. Linda!! Thanks so much for reading! You totally made my day :)! I think you are amazing! <3 Nancy


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