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Why You Shouldn’t Be A Short-Order Cook For Your Kids

Written by Mindy White

Photography by Photographed by BELATHÉE PHOTOGRAPHY

Being the parent of a picky eater can be frustrating and often results in having to play the role of short-order cook during mealtime, because, let’s face it, who wants their tots to go to bed hungry? However great the intentions may be, constantly catering to our children’s likes, wants, and desires is not supportive to ourselves or to our children. Not to mention, besides raising a strictly junk-food-eating future adult, you’re undermining your own authority and allowing your child’s health and nutrition to suffer. We’ve gathered some strategies on how to avoid the mealtime struggle and begin raising an open-minded eater below.

Stick To Familiarity: Picky eaters are more likely to be accepting of something new if it has something familiar incorporated within. When planning meals, try to include one or two of your kid’s favorite ingredients, like cheese or bread, and work around it.

Eat Dinner Together: Meal time is the perfect opportunity to bond and catch up on each other’s day. It’s comforting to a child when the family is all together and enjoying the same food, making it an ideal time to prepare a healthy, balanced meal that everyone (yes, everyone!) eats.

Spice Things Up: Curry may not be the best choice for your little one’s sensitive palate, but adding a bit of spice to their dish is a gateway to introducing new flavors. Try slowly adding fresh herbs, lemon, lime, garlic, and so on. You’ll be surprised how much your kid enjoys new tastes.

Manipulate Vegetables: Most kids fear anything colorful on their plate, and if that’s the case, get creative. Look for new ideas and recipes that incorporate vegetables in main dishes like healthier vegetable-dense casseroles, veggie-packed tomato sauce on pasta, and even baked root vegetables that look like french fries.

Get Them Involved: A great way to get kids to eat what’s on their plate is to let them be a part of the cooking process. Take them with you to the market, have them help wash the fruits and veggies, and let them chop and stir and taste along the way. Knowing that they have contributed to the family dinner instills pride and a desire to eat up.

Start Small: If your child’s being particularly ornery at mealtime, ask them to take one bite per their age and no more. If the food makes them gag, let your kiddo know that she doesn’t have to finish and applaud her for giving it a shot. There’s a fine line between legitimate loathing and pure stubbornness, so be sure you know the difference and not to let your tot off the hook too quickly.

Bribe Away: You gotta do what you gotta do. Your kid may be open to new foods, but that doesn’t mean he will love every dish. Make a rule that there will be no dessert or treat if your child doesn’t eat a good amount of his or her dinner.

Stand Your Ground: Your hard-headed 4-year-old is not going to shrivel up and die if she doesn’t eat dinner at exactly 6pm. Chances are, if you actually stay firm, she will eventually decide to eat the darn carrots. Be clear that the dinner you prepare is the only option. If she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat it, but there isn’t anything else. If she decides not to eat with everyone at mealtime, reassure her that her dinner will be waiting for her when she’s hungry.

No More Plan B: Make a vow to yourself—no more backup meals. Stop offering the noodles and chips as a rescue option the second your kid refuses to eat their dinner. Be done with that and let your child know it. It’s a tough cycle to break, but an important one at that.

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