As if feeding picky eaters isn’t challenging enough all year long, it can be even more stressful during the holidays. I love the variety of foods during the holidays and, especially, the seemingly blank check to eat whatever I want. But, my kids appear to eat even less at the holidays. Surviving the holidays with picky eaters can be tricky, but here are some tips to get your kids to try new things and eat a well-balanced meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Getting ready for the holidays is already stressful enough, but when you throw in picky eaters, that can increase your stress. My kids in particular can make me crazy. Eating at someone else’s home where most of the food is prepared by someone who may not be as sensitive to their culinary cravings can be frustrating. My son doesn’t even like it when I combine things I know he loves, like chicken, cheese and potatoes, into a dish that he’s never had before.
- Prepare them ahead of time. Kids are creatures of routine. They know what they like and they are used to certain foods. At the holidays, it seems that’s when family members love to make new, unique dishes and try them out on their families. Let your kids know what to expect at the meal. Will there be new foods that they may like because all the ingredients are their favorites? What foods do you expect them to eat or at least try? Are there any foods they can skip?
- Bring your own. This may seem obvious, but there are two parts to this. If you know your kids will eat turkey and some of the other basic sides that will be there, then just bring a side dish that you know they like and will eat. OR just bring them their own meal. We have some friends whose son went through a period of only eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. If that is all your kid will eat, pack them their own meal and don’t be apologetic about it. Kids will be kids.
- Be aware of snacking. This is good advice for everyone, especially if you don’t want to pack on the pounds during the holidays. But, for kids, watch what they snack on. Make sure they aren’t eating too much outside of the regular meal times. And if they do snack a lot, try to throw in some healthy snacks, like fruit, nuts and cheese if possible. When meal time comes around, know that they may not be hungry for a full plate of food.
- Loosen up a little. It isn’t the end of the world if you child eats some extra treats and less nutritious foods at Thanksgiving. Isn’t that what most of us adults do? Try not to be too hard on them. The holidays are meant to be a fun time with family and friends. Embarrassing your child about their picky habits will not help their eating habits in the future.
- If you are hosting a gathering and you know picky eaters are coming, try to be understanding. Make some basic, simple dishes. Simple dishes will be crowd pleasing and you will make less work for yourself.
- Use whatever “tricks” you know of to get your child to eat. For my kids, that is encouraging them to try things I know they will like, using toothpicks or different eating utensils, and making sure ‘dips’, like ketchup and ranch, are readily available. Here are some more tips for managing picky eaters the rest of the year.
The holidays are a time to be thankful for what we have, including our children. Survive the holidays with your picky eaters by making sure there are foods they like available for them to eat, encourage them to try a few new things and let some things go. You will be happier and so will your child!