As a Chef and a mom of two toddlers, I am often asked about “silver bullet” dishes that work for picky eaters. Great question! My two children couldn’t be more different. For example, my daughter asked for brown butter saffron wings and truffle risotto for her 3rd birthday. Meanwhile, my 4 year old son couldn’t be happier with Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese and Cheese Pizza. At least there is one easy one!
Eating healthy and creating meaningful moments around the table are things that my husband and I value. Even though we both struggle with finding dishes that my son will scarf down, he is growing up in a home enthusiastic about food with yummy smells running through the kitchen. Certainly this will pay off in the long run, right?! In the mean time, it is important that the food he does eat is healthy, nourishing and fun. Food should be a pleasure, for all of us and not feel like a constant negotiation.
Humbly, and with a grain of salt, here are a few tips:
Leverage what they love. When I introduce new food, I like to keep something familiar on the plate that I know the kids love. Like the French say, “Appetite comes with eating.” So if you know carrot sticks or apple slices get their mouths chomping, start with that and then add to the plate.
Bring them into the process. From harvest to preparation. Picking beans and tomatoes at the farm and eating them in the field has been a game changer for us. The kids also love to help wash, add and stir to big dishes. A sense of ownership in a meal, fosters pride and curiosity.
Sit down together. In this case peer pressure is a good thing! Watching the rest of the family enjoy a healthy meal can be convincing.
Be patient. I recall being the pickiest of eaters. I remember a period before kindergarten where I only ate rice with butter and hotdogs (as long as the casing was peeled off). My word! And now, I love everything. Exposure and positivity are positive influences!
Good luck! Feeding the family is an act of love and not for the faint of heart.