Yes, our little ones are special. Every single one of them! But should we make special and separate meals for picky eaters?
However, it doesn’t mean that moms and dads should go out of their way to make alternate meals just for them…and then have to whip up another meal to suit the rest of the family. Let’s talk about how to handle separate meals for picky eaters.
The survey says…
1 in 4 children who are “picky eaters” continue to be picky as adults. In other words, 25% do not outgrow their reluctance to try new foods unless the right mealtime strategies are used. (Source). And unfortunately, preparing the same few favourite foods and separate meals is one sure way to limit their exposure and ability to grow out of picky eating.
So, from one mom (with a former picky eater) to another….I have to tell you that it’s super important we set our kids up for healthier eating habits sooner than later. That’s exactly why I show parents exactly how to do this (step-by-step) in the 6-week online program - The Picky Eater Protocol.
Alternate meals can backfire
Pressure is one of the biggest reasons why our kids don’t eat well. Often parents are surprised when I pinpoint things they innocently say or do. Things that I did at most meals, unaware they were making things worse.
Preparing separate meals for our picky eaters can actually put pressure on them to eat it. Even more so if we say “Look what mom made JUST for you“. The interpretation for most kids will be this: “Gosh, mommy made this just for me. That means I have to eat it or she will be disappointed.”
But what if they ASK for an alternate meal?
Even if your child requests pasta for dinner, you might not make it the way they want it (the pasta is too soft, has too much or too little sauce). Or by the time you make it they’ve decided that’s not what they want. Kids are unpredictable.
Learning to eat is like learning to ride a bike.
Assume we only let our child ride a tricycle (because that’s what they are comfortable with). How would they learn to ride a two-wheeler? We need to give them a chance to try a bike with training wheels, then without. And with multiple tries and some stumbles, they gain confidence and figure out how to ride.
The same theory applies for meals. Lots of exposures and stretching beyond their comfort zone will help our little ones expand their variety of foods. How do they learn to like new foods if they only get plain pasta and grilled cheese?
What to do instead
We all want our children to grow up with a healthy repertoire of foods. So it’s essential that we expose them to more than chicken nuggets and yogurt.
Know your role. You are responsible of WHAT is served at every meal. We can give kids a choice once in a while but things don’t usually turn out well (they change their minds and we get frustrated after putting in the effort).
Make one meal for your family. The goal is for everyone to eat what is offered - the same meal. As long as there is something there your child can eat as well and in a decent quantity. Be it carrots, crackers, hummus, applesauce, etc. Placing these favourites on the table will help (a) your child feel comfortable coming to the table and (b) give you peace of mind that there is always something there they can eat. They don’t have to eat or even touch the new foods. Just getting them on the table is a step in the right direction.
Get some recipe inspiration. If you’re not sure of what types of meals to make, grab this 5-Day Meal Plan for Picky Eaters. It includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes that are simple to make. And delicious!