Did I Create Picky Eaters? And What to Do About It.
May 04, 2017
Over the last few months of working on this blog I have had a nagging question in the back of my mind. Did I create my picky eaters?
It is a tough pill to swallow. I like to think that I make good choices for my family and that I am doing what is best for my kids, but lately I have wondered, am I doing what is best for me? Do I take the easy way out with dinner because I am tired and I do not want to deal with the kids being unhappy with my dinner choices?
One thing to take comfort in is that I am not alone in this. We are all very busy and worn out. I am encouraged to see the movement to become 'unbusy' starting to take hold. But it is going to take time. Even as I focus on cooking more and talk about food all day long in my job – I am tired when I get home. It can be a challenge to gear myself up to make dinner and the last thing I want to do is battle my kids about eating their dinner.
According to a recent study, one of the main reasons that parents do not introduce new foods to their children was the anticipated waste. They did not want to throw away food and could not afford to do so on a consistent basis. I can relate to this as a single parent. Many times I have tried new things to find I am the only one eating it and other than me eating the leftovers for a week a straight, it was going to end up in the trash.
Another component that encourages picky eating is the simple fact that we do not want our kids to be unhappy, derail the entire evening and make everyone else within the household miserable as well. We all know that our kids do not need to be happy all of the time, but sometimes smoothing things over with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for some peace is how we compromise.
I also know that not all picky eating can be controlled. I have a son with sensory issues, and sensory, oral, and autism are just some of the issues that make this a little trickier. For a comprehensive look at the full picture of picky eating, I encourage you to check out a really great article on bostonglobe.com that gets into the nuts and bolts of everything. You can read it HERE.
I do not want to dwell too long on the problem, and instead focus on some easy steps to take to start a change. Picky eating does not have an easy solution and cannot be forced. I thought the best place to start was to seek some answers from a household with no picky eaters.
Dave and Tara, both employees of County Market, shared some great tips on how they manage a household of five kids and have sit down dinners almost every night of the week:
1. They exposed their kids to all types of foods from the very beginning. Both Dave and Tara like all fruits and vegetables, and so their kids do too. They try to never make the same meal twice in one month. By doing this, they eat a variety of dishes, which of course the kids have learned to like.
2. They eat together as a family every night at the same time. Due to Dave and Tara’s work schedules, they eat a little bit later in the evening so they can all eat together. The nights that their kids have soccer games are the only times they deviate from their dinner time. Game nights they fix something quick and easy, or have a crock pot meal ready to go before or after the game.
3. All of their meals are eaten sit down style around a set table. Tara is a big believer in sitting down together for a meal. She learned from her students and co-workers that many families do not eat at a table, but rather in a living room, in front of a TV. By not eating at a table, a family misses an opportunity to connect with their children. Meal time is a great opportunity to have discussions without any distractions. Also, by setting and then later clearing dishes after dinner, the kids are given their own responsibilities with meal time. Tara hopes that someday they will carry on this tradition with their own families.
4. Their kids do not refuse dinner because they know it is not an option. Dave and Tara’s twelve year old son is a bit picky with some things. He hates onions and tomatoes (but he likes ketchup, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, etc.) and he will pick both out of any dish they make. Tara starts most dishes with onions, so she continues to use onions, or sometimes she may just use onion powder (he doesn’t have a clue). If she is making something that one of the kids doesn’t “love”, she will always serve a side and/or vegetable that they like along with the main course. There is usually cottage cheese and sometimes fruit on the table as well, so there is always something they can eat.
5. They only make one meal. Tara tells the kids, “I’m not a short order cook, you eat what you get.” And as stated in #4, the meal is served with sides they do like, so they will not go hungry.
6. On an average week, they do not eat out. If Dave and Tara take the kids out to eat, it is usually for a lunch on the weekend. During an average month, they may grab take out, or eat out two to three times. It is much cheaper to eat at home, so they prefer it. On nights when they don’t feel like cooking, they grab pizza or Chinese food.
Here is an example of a meal Dave and Tara served their family this week:
Sometimes when I face a problem my first instinct is to be completely overwhelmed which causes me to be immobilized. Looking at Dave and Tara’s dinner techniques I can break their successes down into action items and try to incorporate one or two ideas at a time into my dinner routine. Changing habits takes time for everyone. My takeaway is to keep trying and to keep introducing new foods, while providing foods that the kids already accept and like.
All of this circles back to the reoccurring theme of taking the time to spend with your family. What we eat is important, but so often the missing ingredient we really need is quality time.
I hope that if you have picky eaters that you can take comfort in the fact that this is a struggle for many and that you can take away some ideas on how to improve your dinner situation. I will leave you with a short film that goes along well with this week’s blog. And next week I will return to regular scheduled programming with a recipe in hand!
A Marketing Mom Striving to get out of the Fast Food Lane and into the Grocery Aisle