How did I let them get so picky?
Updated: Jan 27, 2021
These are real conversations I have with my stepson at dinner.
Does this sound familiar?
Are you shaking your head as to how your kiddo ended up so...picky?
For me, I know it comes from food exposure. Something Jennifer with @kids.eat.in.color teaches in her courses.
But being a blended family means there are unique struggles. It means learning something and applying it at our house isn't reinforced when they're not here.
Our dinnertime differences are:
The kids are exposed to different foods at our house.
The kids are expected to eat the food that is served (not a full-order kitchen chef).
The kids are held to different meal time standards at our house.
Knowing that being a 2-home kid is difficult enough, I had to find ways to blend physical health and nutrition into the routines and customs that align in both houses.
Jennifer's advice struck me in a few ways that could make this happen:
Let them pick how much
First, I had to learn what foods they like most and align with what I know is best for their nutrition. We had to decide that at each meal, we will serve one food that they like and can eat however much they want. That is their safe food.
I know that can be quite difficult if you have more than one child. But we have found things like pears, apples, salami, cheese, peanut butter, peas and green beans will be consumed by all of them. So it's just about getting creative with your meals. Sometimes we allow them to have apples with dinner and cheese with breakfast. I promise, once you start seeing the patterns in what they ask for, the hardest part is over!
Our goal at every meal is to offer a fruit/veggie, a protein and a grain. And it shows up differently every single meal. Here's an example of one dinner:
And every once in a while we get someone who is unwilling to try the other foods, even if there is a safe food. A child who will eat all the veggies and protein, but won't touch the grain. Or eat all the grain, but not touch the protein.
Our solution: Family bites.
Since we require everyone to try a bite, it just makes sense to do it as a team. The minute we hear one child say they don't like something, we shift into "Family Bite Mode" and encourage everyone to join in and take a bite. Then, they can go on eating as much as they want until they are full.
Once the kids each take a bite and are filled to their desire, we let them bus their plates and be done with dinner. It prevents the jumbling around at meals. This advice helped my stepparent brain understand kids better and how long they can sit still. Jennifer also has a lot to say on that. Maybe in another post I can show you what that looks like in a blended home situation.
One important note: We don't let them eat a minimal amount at dinner with hopes of a night time snack or dessert. Generally, we are done eating when the meal is over. Acknowledging there is no more food for the evening gives them that boundary helps them understand their bellies at dinnertime. That's all my nutritionist heart desires - that we understand our bodies best!
The last part of our dinner time ritual is to pay attention to the good. This also can be tricky, especially on emotionally draining days. By ignoring the one not eating, you are giving them agency over their body and emotions and allowing them to understand the natural consequences of not eating enough nutrients.
If a child is really struggling to eat, we remind the children of the One Bite Rule, offer the Family Bite, and let them know there won't be dessert or snacks and let them make their own decisions. Because we have set these boundaries and stick to them, it's easier not to get upset when they choose a less-preferred option.
These methods have helped me to not feel shame and guilt as a parent around mealtime.
What's your biggest dinner time struggle?