For every parent who has ever felt the frustration of trying to feed a picky eater without losing their cool, or caving into unhealthy habits, this message is for you. Here’s what we know – in today’s world, there’s not a lot of extra time to go around. Certainly not enough to make a separate meal for a picky eater or get involved in a power struggle during what could be quality family time. Fortunately, dealing with testy taste buds doesn’t have to be a struggle for parents. There are practical and even fun ways to get persnickety children to expand their mealtime favorites list without causing a food fight.

  1. Let them in on the plan: Kids who are part of the planning process feel more empowered and excited about the outcome. From lunch and dinner options for the week to who will help make the meals, getting your kids’ input will make them feel special, included, and more likely to try new food options.
  2. Take them Shopping: While that may seem more daunting than helpful at times, if kids know they can pick out the fruits and vegetables for meals and learn about different varieties, they’ll be proud to have ‘their selections’ show up at the table. You can even make it a field trip of sorts – often times produce managers are more than excited to show off their wares to little ones.The bonus? Sometimes when someone else (like a helpful store employee) suggests something new to try, kids are more eager to be accommodating.
  3. Throw them a “Bone”: No, not a real bone, but offer at least one healthy item your child is sure to like at every sitting.
  4. Let them “Own It”: Make your child’s eating habits their responsibility, not yours. Remember, you can’t “make” your kids eat – no matter how hard you try! Your job is to prepare a healthy meal. Your child’s job is to eat it or not. The more we coax, prod, “just try one little bite” them, we create an environment ripe for power struggles – and that’s a battle parents will never win! If they choose not to eat dinner, that’s fine, but don’t offer snacks before bed or you’ll undo the natural consequences of their choices!
  5. New Food Made Comfortable: Introduce new foods in a familiar way. Think zucchini baked in panko rather than sautéed, or mashed cauliflower – or even cauliflower pizza crust (you won’t believe how good it is)!
  6. Be a Role Model: When adults and siblings model healthy eating with a variety of foods it can get the picky eater interested in trying new things.
  7. Finger Friendly: Kids love finger foods. Fruit kabobs? Always a hit. Lightly steamed or raw veggies together with whole grain tortellini and cherry tomatoes on a kabob? Awesome alternative. Homemade chicken tenders (baked, not fried) with dipping sauce? They’ll be on board! Dunk-worthy brain food any day of the week!

Make mealtime your time to connect and be creative with your kids. It may seem an ‘old fashioned’ idea in our modern world, but maximizing family time with REAL interaction and conversations AND healthy food alternatives? Yeah – we’ll take that ‘old school’ all day and night!

About the Author

Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.