If you have kids who are picky eaters, you already know which foods you can get them to eat at home—and which ones they’ll refuse to eat. Sure, it’s frustrating to have picky eaters but at least you know what to expect.
During Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s however, all bets are off.
The holidays are already stressful but the holidays with picky eaters is an entirely different ball game.
Having kids who snub vegetables and refuse to eat anything other than pasta with butter can kick your stress into high gear especially when other family members are watching you and your parenting skills.
Thoughts start rushing through your mind:
- What will they eat?
- Will they eat something other than dessert?
- Should I bring a separate meal for them?
Your biggest fear is that your kids will embarrass you, spit out the food in their mouths and say, “ew, gross!” right as they taste your mother-in-law’s famous casserole.
Although there’s not much you can do to control your kids’ unpredictable behaviors, or your mother-in-law’s eye rolls, there are some ways to handle your picky eaters this holiday season.
1. Talk about table manners
When my kids eat something they don’t like such as onions in a salad, they’ll put it on my plate even though I constantly urge them to leave it on their own. Despite your best intentions, your kids’ table manners probably aren’t perfect so during the holidays you’ll definitely want to help them brush up.
In addition to reminding them to say “please,” and “thank you,” and chew with their mouths closed, make sure they also know never to spit out food or express their dislike for a food out loud. If they take a small bite and they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat more.
2. Have a snack
To ensure your picky eaters eat something and don’t arrive to your celebration cranky, consider serving them a small, healthy snack made up of protein and fiber. If they refuse to eat, or only want a piece of bread when you get there, it’s not a big deal.
3. Bring a dish
I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to prepare a separate meal for a child unless of course they’re gluten-free or have food allergies.
Having a separate meal on hand teaches your kids that you’ll accommodate them and cater to their preferences. But what happens when your picky eaters become adults and won’t eat anything that’s served? It’s not cute anymore.
If you’re already bringing something to dinner however, you can make a dish that everyone including your kids will eat. Although it’s not going to be French fries, perhaps it can be bruschetta for an appetizer, soup or a vegetable side your kids like, for example.
4. Cook together
When my kids cook with me, they always want to taste what we’re making. Whether you’re preparing the entire holiday dinner or bringing a dish, let your kids help you cook. When kids feel like they’ve had a hand in what you’ve made, they feel empowered and excited to show off—and enjoy the dish.
5. Let it go
If you’re stressed out your kids will definitely sense it. Do your best to relax and loosen up about what they choose to and refuse to eat during the holidays.
I’m not suggesting you let them load up on sugar and neglect to eat anything else but it’s a losing battle to expect them to eat the vegetables or try the new foods you put on their plates.
Your kids may actually surprise you however, and be willing to try new foods that grandma offers or they see the other kids eating.
Either way, go with the flow and pick up your normal healthy eating menu the next day.
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