Dining with a Pint-sized Critic without the Frustration

Dining with a picky eater is like trying to cook risotto in Hell’s Kitchen.  No matter how well prepared or delicious the meal is, you just know someone is going to be yelling.

Here’s some sanity saving tips to dine happily with your picky dinner guests:

Let ’em eat cake

… or bread, or pizza or ice cream.  Every year, the media pushes the latest and greatest super food on an eager-to-eat-healthier public.  It’s often something unheard of and bold new edible territory.  Yes, you should try it.  No, you don’t have to like it.

For kids, every meal is bold new edible territory.  “Because it’s good for you” has no sway with the little ones.  Like anything new in their environment, they need to get acquainted and familiar with a new food before they’ll try it.  Offer new food with a tried and tested favourite and don’t fret if something in particular wasn’t eaten.  Be happy they eat.  Period.

Shake it up

Get creative with ways to eat a balanced diet, even if you drink it.  Shakes and smoothies, depending on the ingredients, can add vitamins, protein, fiber and iron disguised as a delicious and refreshing treat.  The form nutrition takes is much less important than the “yum” said after it’s been ingested.

Forget where elbows shouldn’t be

Gathering around food is nothing more than a reason to, well, gather.  It’s a time to sit and enjoy the company in attendance.  It’s not about proper table etiquette.  Your home might be your castle, but it’s not like you’re dining with Buckingham royalty.  There should be light hearted conversation, and lots of laughter.  Most importantly, it’s a time to relax.  So relax, and enjoy.

Go old school

It’s common for European children to have a small glass of wine with dinner.  While I’m not advocating alcohol as a suitable beverage for minors, a few small sips of wine (or juice pretending to be wine) with dinner may give your youngster a desire to be more like the grown ups at the table.  Maybe when the grown ups are trying something new, your little critic may feel a little more adventurous too.

“Happy Juice” is the kids’ alternate name for chocolate milk.

Pick your fights 

Children are quirky little beings trying to understand a world they have little experience with.  As parents, we have to let them win a few battles every now and again because nothing teaches a lesson quicker than an unpleasant consequence. Food is no place to start a battle.

Breathe deeply and often

Food is a subjective topic.  Between the variety of colours, shapes, temperatures, textures, and tastes, it’s just not possible to please everyone all the time.  Children fall into dietary ruts in attempts to be more independent, to control their environment, or just express a preference.  Be patient.

Listen

Some children will not out grow their issues with food, and everyone you meet will have an opinion.  If you feel your child’s limited diet is more than just a temporary phase, seek help.   Remember, you know your child best and the most useful voice to listen to is your own.

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