How to Get a Picky Eater to Eat Everything
How do you get a picky eater to eat everything…or almost everything? I bet you’re thinking, “Ha! Ha! She has never met my child. This will never happen.”
Yep. I get that.
But we all start out the same way when we are born. We neither like nor dislike anything when we come out of the womb. Something changes at one point or another. From my observation, the change happens when a child becomes a toddler.
Somewhere between the ages of 1-3 years old, a child starts developing an opinion and says “no” to about everything. This is a normal phase, but it can be difficult when your child says “no” to food. Eating is the ultimate power trip for kids. They say “no” and you can’t do a darn thing about it. Or can you?
In this post, I am going to share with you the secret my pediatrician gave me on how to get a picky eater to eat everything. You will be amazed at how well it works.
I did it with both of my kids when they were young. Because I addressed the problem early, they had a very diversified palate all the way through their childhood and teen years. They would try and eat almost anything I served to them at mealtime
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Mealtime at Your House
Before I tell you the secret to getting a picky eater to eat everything, I would like to come to your world. Perhaps there are a few things you do with your kids when it comes to mealtime.
My first guess…you might be making separate meals? You have one meal for you (and your spouse), and then you make another meal for your kids. Am I right?
And, I bet I can guess what your kids’ meals look like. Perhaps something with pasta, corn, potatoes, rice, pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, carrots with ranch, maybe green beans (canned-most have added sugar), applesauce ( with corn syrup), flavored yogurt (sugar), cheese, and peanut butter/ jelly (most have sugar) with no crust?
Oh, and ketchup.
Some of you only wish your child ate that many foods. I know many of you have kids who only eat four or five things on a good day. Perhaps you have taken your child to the doctor recently because he is not eating enough. And that’s when the doctor intervened and suggested Pediasure to supplement his diet.
How did this happen? What went wrong?
The Truth About Your Child’s Diet
The truth about your child’s diet is that he’s eating mostly sugar. If you go back and take a good look at your menu, you will notice that corn, rice, potatoes, pasta, nugget coating, pizza, commercial fruit/yogurt, and bread turn to sugar once in the body.
Look at your ketchup, too. Yep, lots of sugar.
Now read your Pediasure can…more sugar. After water, sugar is the second ingredient, and then corn maltodextrin. Corn maltodextrin is refined sugar and a preservative. Read the rest of the ingredients in Pediasure. It includes a whole bunch of other stuff produced in a laboratory.
Did you realize this is what your child is ingesting daily if he is on Pediasure? Here is the ingredient label to Pediasure so you can see for yourself.
So what do you do? You may feel trapped and scared to try anything else. Don’t worry, I was close to this point with my first born too. I was kinda feeling like a failure. When I was about to buy the Pediasure, I looked at the ingredients and decided to do things differently. It was in the store I had an epiphany. I realized I wanted to be the fun mom who made yummy food all the time. It turned out that wasn’t the best thing for my son.
Related: Tired of Not the Fun Parent?
I had no one to blame but myself. I created this picky eater by feeding all the carbs (sugar) to him. He had developed a taste for only this type of food.
Somehow my choices evolved into a toddler in charge of mealtimes. Ugh!
Wait, what? Yes, he was in charge, not me. I realized I had to shift the power back to me and retrain his taste buds to eat things other than high carb foods.
Maybe this is what has happened to your child, too.
How to Get a Picky Eater to Eat Everything
So how do you get a picky eater to eat everything? My pediatrician suggested I feed my son what the rest of the family was eating. That sounded simple.
The only problem was I knew my child wouldn’t eat it. He said, “Don’t worry, he’ll get hungry…eventually.” He reminded me that when kids get the flu or some other sickness they will go two or three days without eating much.
What, starve my child? No way! I didn’t want to do that.
But I listened further. He said, “If your son refuses his dinner, don’t make a big deal about it. Just say okay. But tell him there is nothing else to eat. He has the choice to eat it or not.
If he doesn’t eat it, then wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning, serve it for breakfast. If he refuses, then serve it for lunch, and so on. He WILL eventually eat it.”
So I tried it. And it worked. He ate it for lunch the next day. He never even went a full 24 hours without food. My son didn’t wither away, go into cardiac arrest, or need counseling afterward.
I had to do this only a few times before he learned he wasn’t in charge anymore. We never had problems after that.
Over the years, my kids have developed preferences. And that is okay. I wanted to make meals fun, just not carb loaded and only on their terms. They didn’t particularly like eggplant and mushrooms. I tried not to make those things since they ate everything else.
Let me give you a list of things we ate at my house (still do): collard and turnip greens, summer and winter squash, broccoli, spinach, beets, turnips, celery, carrots, avocado, kiwi, tomatoes, star fruit, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew, coconut, asparagus, spiraled zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc.
You get the idea.
Yes, my kids actually liked them all.
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What About Teens?
If you have older kids the plan I gave may be difficult to do. Try this instead: Only make one meal at mealtime for the family.
You are not a short-order cook.
If your teen decides not to eat it, no big deal. But nothing else to eat for the evening other than fruits and vegetables.
Snacks: Have a basket for each child. Put one week’s worth of snacks in it. Your teen can eat the snacks all in one day or spread them out over the seven days. This way your teen will not be able to fill up on snacks before dinner. Fruits and veggies are always available throughout the day. The point is to guide your teen to better choices without power struggles.
A side benefit of getting your child to eat or taste everything is that they are very good guests in people’s homes. Many mothers said how grateful they were that they did not have to cater to my kids. They couldn’t believe they would eat anything that was put before them, and they said “thank you” when they were done.
I hope this suggestion will help you with your picky eaters. I read once that picky eaters are not born, they are made. After the transition I saw with my own child, I have to agree. You can retrain taste buds to like healthier things if you work at it.
Of course, if you don’t eat healthy food, I wouldn’t try to get your kids to eat healthily. You are the best example for them to eat right.
*Before you try this, ask your pediatrician if it is okay. I do not want to be the cause of any harm that could come from skipping a few meals.
Your pediatrician will hopefully see the real health benefits of short-term pain for long-term benefits.
Book on Family Estrangement from a Biblical Point of View
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Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Parenting and Family. This is a place for moms with preschool age kids or older to talk about their struggles with parenting, family life, education, or marriage. You will find biblically based advise from other moms who want to raise godly kids.
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