Cooking for Picky Kids
Your kids are picky eaters. How do you get them to try something new? Or just eat their veggies?
- 1. Allow your kids to help plan the menus. If they have voice in their meals, they are more likely to accept those meals.
- 2. Have your kids help you prepare the meals. Let your kids see how the meals are prepared and what the ingredients are. If your kids want to “tweak” a recipe here or there, give their suggestions consideration. For example, does Timmy want to add cashews to his orange roughy? It’s an unusual combination, but it may be good. Give it a try and see if you like it.
- 3. Ask lots of questions and provide reasonable accommodations. “Janey, what is it about that veggie that you don’t like?” Some concerns can be addressed by minor modifications to the dish you are serving. Is the broccoli “too boring”? Ok, top the broccoli with melted cheddar cheese. Is the stew “gross” because of cooked carrots? Ok, substitute a different veggie for the carrots or reduce the quantity of carrots in the stew. (TIP: some moms are tempted to finely chop the carrots and “sneak” them in the stew, but when your kids find out about the sneaky carrots, and you know they will, they’ll distrust other dishes that you serve thereafter.)
- 4. Get creative. If Little Pat doesn’t like cooked green vegetables, would Little Pat be willing to eat raw green vegetables? If Timmy doesn’t like plain orange roughy, would putting it in a casserole or adding a small amount of drawn butter be more appealing to Timmy? Would Janey like her carrots if they were in chicken noodle soup rather than stew?
- 5. Have patience. Don’t approach food with a disciplinarian perspective. If kids feel that mealtime is punitive, that will encourage them to approach meals with caution. Instead, embrace their right to like or dislike certain foods, maintain your own right to inquire non-judgmentally about what their specific concerns are about the disliked foods, and seek to remedy any concerns expressed by your kids.
- 6. Don’t provide unreasonable accommodations. If you prepare only the dishes that your kids already like, you will encourage them in their picky eating and discourage them from trying new foods.
- 7. If your kids say that they don’t like certain foods because they make them feel “icky”, take your kids to the doctor to determine if they have food allergies that you need to be aware of. If a food allergy is present, your doctor can recommend alternatives. For example, lactose-free milk can be purchased at most grocery stores.
- 8. Making trying new foods fun. Make mashed potato mountains and valleys with gravy rivers. Have a broccoli forest (stand broccoli on their stems). Make a sandwich smiley face (remove crusts in a rounded pattern and cut in a smile and two eyes). Have an international foods dinner periodically, and let your kids learn about news foods (and cultures) via that experimentation.
- 9. Consider nutritional supplements. Vitamin and mineral tablets come in kid-friendly shapes that entice kids and encourage kids to accept taking them without fuss.